Inside LoveShackFancy’s First New York Fashion Week Event

It’s moments before LoveShackFancy’s first major event at New York Fashion Week is scheduled to take place uptown at Cooper Hewitt’s fenced-off garden on East 91st Street. Models in colorful party dresses are gesticulating enthusiastically in front of an iPhone with a spotlight attached apparatus: “ Stunning! Gorgeous! Big smiles! Fun little movements! Yes! We’re at a party, ladies! Yes!” cheer a gaggle of employees in floral-print maxi skirts and corset-inspired tops. The brand’s founder, Rebecca Hessel Cohen, is stomping around the grass in metallic-pink platform heels, a pink ruffled tulle gown, and matching cat-eye sunglasses, making sure every last detail is in place. She had 5,000 roses delivered for the occasion, plus towers of pink macaroons and a working prop fountain that looks like something you might find at a chateau in France. Parked outside is a Mister Softee truck wrapped in the brand’s signature girly-pink rose print. “This is LoveShackFancy 2.0,” Hessel Cohen tells me as we survey her temporary kingdom and the new collection on display.

She launched the brand in 2013, after leaving her job as a fashion editor at Cosmowhere she could often be found wearing heels, miniskirts, and vintage T-shirts. The first thing she designed were “ethereal chiffon dresses that were but still sexy” for the bridesmaids at her own wedding. But after having her two daughters, her aesthetic became more “nostalgic fairy-tale princess,” she says. And it remains the same. Think pink — so much pink — and excessive amounts of bows, ruffles, tutu tulle, lace gloves, and pearls. It’s got the old-timey charm of Anthropologie, the bohemian style of Free People, the romantic floral wallpaper prints of Laura Ashely, the vibrancy of Lily Pulitzer, the whimsy of Kate Spade, and the kookiness of Betsy Johnson — all at the price point of an Alice & Olivia bat mitzvah dress.

More specifically, LoveShackFancy is like the Dylan’s Candy Bar version of Doên: saccharine tea party attire that is simultaneously of another, sweeter, more innocent time and the byproduct of our current chaotic one. The overload of pink might suggest Barbie-core, but it’s more “regency-core,” to steal a Depop-ism, and more Bridgerton than Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinettein that it’s less concerned with good taste. The brand’s prices range from $45 to $1,500, and its sizes currently go up to a US 12, but despite these barriers to entry, a lot of people of all ages, boroughs, and states are really, really into it.

Scenes from the LoveShackFancy New York Fashion Week presentation. Sara Messinger

Since 2013, LoveShackFancy has exploded. From 2020 to 2021, the brand increased sales by 125 percent and doubled its fleet of stores, which are covered in vines of fake flowers and impossible to miss. There are 14 in total now — one on Bleecker Street , one on Madison Avenue, and two in the Hamptons — with a 15th opening in Scottsdale, Arizona, this fall and future plans for Aspen and London, which would be its first international location. The brand has also since launched a home-goods line and collaborated with Target and American Girl Doll.

During the height of the pandemic, LoveShackFancy provided customers with the ease of the “nap dress” and the escapist effect of “dopamine dressing.” Best-sellers still include its ruffle miniskirts, which recently became wrapped up in Bama Rush-Tok and brought in a new, much younger audience. About half of the brand’s stores are in the South, where it has a cult following beyond sorority girls. But Hessel Cohen would like to remind you of LoveShackFancy’s roots. “I am not a Southern girl,” she declared before over Zoom before Fashion Week. “I am a Jewish girl from New York City.” She attended Nightingale, the private prep school around the corner from Cooper Hewitt that inspired Gossip Girlwhere her love of miniskirts was born.

Back home on the Upper East Side, Hessel Cohen was ready to give the brand, and New York Fashion Week, a little zhuzh. She was tired of “prairie dresses” and “peasant dresses” and wanted the collection to have more of a sleek , day-to-night metropolitan feel. “We’re doing pants for the first time,” she said, pointing to a pink charmeuse suit, and I saw at least two pieces in the color black. She also included ’90s and early -2000s references with butterfly clips and chokers. “We went a little more simple, in a way, for us in our styles,” she continued. “If you can believe it.”

“We’re also …” Hessel Cohen paused, turning to her husband and now-business partner, who wore pink checkerboard Vans. “Should we put the music on?” she suggested. “People are starting to arrive.”

Photo: Sara Messinger

Cue: “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.”

Guests who’d been lining up outside all afternoon immediately started pouring into the pink oasis. Among them were Pat Cleveland, Olivia Palermo, Danielle Bernstein of WeWoreWhat, and influencers like Kit Clementine Keenin, who describes herself on Instagram as a “young Martha Stewart stuck in Blair Waldorf’s plotline.”

Two high-schoolers named Savannah Adams and Addie Dawson were also in the crowd. They’d flown in from Charleston, South Carolina, with their families just for the event. LoveShackFancy “groupies” have been known to travel to store openings across the country , but this trip had been a long time coming. Adams followed Dawson on TikTok, and they met for the first time at a LoveShackFancy event at the Charleston store this spring. They’ve been inseparable ever since and now go to the same school, where Adams is a sophomore and Dawson a junior.

“We’ve both had tough times with friends — not being able to fully express our girliness,” said Dawson, who wore a tulle miniskirt with a bow on the back. “So, thankfully, we met each other and became soul sisters through LoveShack.”

“There are a lot of stereotypes; people think we’re ditsy or stupid,” echoed Adams, who wore a ruffled purple dress ($495). “We feel confident when we wear LoveShackFancy.”

The girls posed in a pink photo booth while I chatted with their moms. “It’s so difficult to be a teenage girl right now,” said Jennifer Dawson. She was also dressed in a floral LoveShackFancy dress ($595). “How fancy and uplifting the brand is makes them feel like a princess.”

Photo: Sara Messinger

“When they’ve had a bad week, they just want to go to the store and take pictures because it’s an escape,” said Holly Adams, who wore a purple gown ($795) that matched her daughter’s and admitted to spending $5,000 at the Palm Beach store last week. She added, “When I was growing up, it was the grunge look and it was so awful!”

After-school one day this fall, Dawson and Adams met at a Starbucks and made a Powerpoint presentation to persuade their moms to take them to New York for the event. It included an itinerary with flights and hotels and the educational and professional reasons why they should attend. “We’re not just going to go to New York if you’re not invited,” their moms replied. So they got themselves invited by DM’ing Hessel Cohen, whom they reverently refer to as “Bec.” With more than 70,000 followers on Instagram, she’s developed a cult following and has even decorated stores with framed photos of her own family.

“It’s not just a brand; it’s a way of life for Addie,” said her mom. “They look at someone like Bec and they think: We want our life to be like hers.

Scenes from the LoveShackFancy New York Fashion Week presentation. Sara Messinger

Local private-school students were invited to the event as well. “We love the aesthetic; it’s kind of coquette,” said one girl from Sacred Heart wearing a white miniskirt, making all her friends giggle. She’d heard about the event through her mom, who was presumably also a fan.

“Last Christmas, I got a text from my granddaughter saying, ‘I would love a LoveShackFancy dress,’ and I thought, what?said one woman of the brand’s botlike name. (Her granddaughter just started seventh grade at Spence.) But when she visited the Palm Beach store in search of a gift, she fell in love with it herself.

Photo: Sara Messinger

Years ago, when Hessel Cohen first showed her Victorian-style dresses to buyers, they saw them more on the beaches of Southampton than the streets of New York City. But she’s since convinced them and legions of fans of all ages in the five boroughs and beyond that they’re just as much a status symbol as a Polo and as potent a mood lift as Prozac. “It’s so depressing here; it’s nice to wear some pink and flowers and stuff,” said Chloe Pearl, who lives in New York . She wore a debutante-esque ruffled tulle ball gown with a large bow in her hair. “Literally, add some pink into your life,” echoed her friend, Asia Monet.

As the presentation came to an end, the DJ played “Dog Days Are Over,” “What a Wonderful World,” and of course, “Love Shack.” Hessel Cohen went out to the tune of “New York, New York,” waving her hands above her head, where they’d been fixed all afternoon, and kicking her pink heels in the air as a circle of iPhones watched.

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