At 71 years old, Carol Cohen Hohl, who splits her time between Manhattan and the North Fork, has had an illustrious career in the fashion industry.
She worked for Japanese fashion house Sanyo for years and has taught at Parsons The New School for Design, among her many ventures.
But last year Cohen Hohl and her son Michael Cohen, 45, launched North Fork Apparel, their new basic wear and accessory clothing line influenced by the simple, yet authentic lifestyle of 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,” she told us at the time. “We did great fabrics in well-fitting, well-designed clothing. It’s like food for your body.”
Here’s why Cohen Hohl is ramping up at a time in life when many of her peers are scaling back.
Q: Why now?
A: People said to me, “You’re 71 years old, why don’t you retire?” I tried it and, to tell you truth, I was depressed. I was a person who always worked and I’m lucky enough to work in something that I’m passionate about. My son said to me, “Mom, I have an idea.” We just started in early spring. We found a factory and a website designer. I haven’t been this happy in a long time. I keep on saying to people, “It’s never over till it’s over.” Personally, I think retirement is way over-valued. It sounds good when you’re 25, but it leaves a big blank in your life.
Q: What are the advantages of starting a business at this point in your life?
A: You put less pressure on yourself. When you’re young, you have to be the very best. When you’re older, your ego is less. You don’t have to prove anything. I’ve already been successful. Now it’s not that I don’t want to be successful, because of course you do, but you don’t stay up at night thinking about it. That’s a big advantage. Plus, it gives me enough spare time to be semi-retired. I still go to the gym. I can pick and choose what I want to do plus be fully occupied in the business.
Q: What are the cons?
A. Although, I don’t like to admit I’m not 30 anymore, I’m not 30 anymore. Doing this on my own would be very difficult. I’m not in the shape I was when I first started. You have less energy so you have to pace yourself differently. My son drives me to the factory and drops me off out front.
Q: What advice would you give to someone starting a business at this point in their lives?
A: Find something you are passionate about that you can be good at. Don’t decide at age 65 that you want to be a doctor or do something unreasonable. There are women who start businesses on a very small scale. Start small with something you are passionate about that you can achieve — and do it. If you feel defeated, take a deep breath, lie down, take a nap. It’s not as bad as you think. I do think anybody should pull back when they hit the wall. Don’t give up.
Q: What do you want for the future?
A: I will always have the passion, but I want to hire a young designer who will help, that I can feed my ideas. In the future, I really am praying that it becomes big enough to hire help. I like to be around young people because they look at things differently than I do. Hopefully, I live to 100 and I’m still doing it.
This story originally appeared in the 2015 edition of northforker 50+ magazine