Carol Cohen Hohl has spent 30 years perfecting her Southold weekend retreat, a 14-room farm house on Main Bay View Road that is decorated with furniture and curios collected from various North Fork yard sales and antique shops over the decades.
For the 71-year-old designer, the North Fork has been a peaceful place to gather with friends on the weekends and the antidote to spending the week in New York City and its wild fashion world.
Now Cohen Hohl and her son Michael Cohen, 45, are launching North Fork Apparel, their new basic wear and accessory clothing line influenced by the simple, yet authentic lifestyle associated with Long Island’s quieter fork.
“We were inspired by the quality of everything that is made here. From the food, to the wine, to the people,” Cohen Hohl said. “We did great fabrics in well-fitting, well-designed clothing. It’s like food for your body.”
The new line features tees, shirts, hoodies and accessories in earthy muted colors made of exceptional materials. The items will range from about $50 to $400, Cohen said.
“It’s a luxury item, but it will be an affordable luxury item,” Cohen Hohl said.
The clothing is designed by Cohen Hohl and the fabrics are sewn at a factory in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The items will be ready for purchase on the company’s website, northforkapparel.com, by mid-November.
One thing you won’t find on North Fork Apparel clothing — the brand logo emblazoned across its garments. Only the baseball cap features the company’s name in almost imperceptible stitching.
“Our philosophy is to be a little more understated,” said Michael Cohen, who started his career working for his father Robert Cohen and grandfather Abe Cohen when they owned Craftex Creations and the intimate wear label Gilligan & O’Malley. The latter brand was sold to Target. “We’d rather the clothing and fabric be the draw.”
The tops, hats and scarves are made from materials like bamboo and fleece sourced from California, Italian cashmere and silk, and Chinese hemp.
The label does not have a storefront, though the pair hope to soon have show rooms on the East End and in the city, where people can see the fabric and designs in person. That is fitting as the feeling of the fabrics is certainly one of the selling points for the line. North Fork Apparel’s zip-up fleece has been dubbed the “naked hoodie” by Cohen’s wife Nadia for the way it feels on the skin.
Cohen Hohl, once a designer for the Japanese coat company Sanyo, has seen her designs sold in high-end department stores like Nieman Marcus for nearly her entire career. But as the market shifts, she sees consumers moving to the internet and not having brick-and-mortar shops, which might allow her company to keep overhead low, she said.
Though their target customer base will be those in their mid-twenties to early fifties, the mother and son team hope their designs are embraced by a wide variety of people.
“It’s not meant to be high fashion,” added Michael Cohen. “The fleece is something you could wear down to the beach. The cashmere is something you could wear to work or under a jacket. I think it crosses demographic lines.”