Betty Negrete of Coco and Juan on Etsy used to play with the big boys of apparel making: a former wholesale plus-size apparel maker and buyer, she was forced out of her original market niche by competition from China, she’s now reclaiming her place in the apparel market on the indie circuit. A designer of flowing garments and comfort looks, she uses color, asymmetric cuts and glorious-to-touch fabrics. Disclosure: she did send me a piece to review, free of charge. It’s a fun flowy piece, great for the witchy-look part of my life, and I’m hoping to find some new ways to wear it involving belts, ties, maybe even a chain somewhere.
What is the story behind your shop name?
I was a buyer for a chain of stores (Laise Adzer, bohemian clothes, made in Morocco), along with buying for the stores, I , with our accessory designer, Ron Browning, over saw the in house design and manufacturing of small groups of clothing. Our sewers, who where all Spanish speaking women, would call Ron, Juan, and the owner of the company would always say to me, “Who do you think you are, Coco Channel?” So when Ron and I started our manufacturing company it was just natural to call it “Coco & Juan”. When we closed our wholesale business 3 years ago, I decided to keep the name, it had some brand recognition, and I had 7000 plus woven Coco & Juan labels, that I wasn’t about to throw away!!
How does Etsy compare to your wholesale past?
love love selling direct to the customer!! Yes, it was great to get a big wholesale order from Nordstrom’s, but the headache of producing the goods, shipping them and then waiting to get paid was so stressful. Selling to the online customer is such a positive experience, it’s more personal, you get great feedback and 99.99% of the customers are just a joy to work with. I love it when customers give me input, I get requests for special colors, maybe change the length of a sleeve or a different neckline, I take all of this to heart. So when I’m out shopping for fabric, I look for colors and fabrics that have been requested and incorporate the design suggestion into the styles.
Who do you consider your target market?
My target customer is a women with lots of self confidence, who doesn’t follow trends, but creates her own look. She is artsy, with a good sense of style. My design have alot of drape and angles to them, so they are great pieces to accessories with. I don’t thing there is any specific age group, that wears Coco & Juan, it’s more of an attitude and how you put the pieces together. I’ve sold the same style to 2 different women, one tells me she wears the top, belted, with skinny jeans and gladiator sandals, the other pairs it with a long skirt, flat boots and lots of chunky jewelry. But what I hear time and time again, is how comfortable and flattering on my clothes are to wear.
What are your feelings on models, plus size models, and the impact of the actual models used on clothing sales?
I have been in the garment industry for over 25 years and I still can’t grasp the concept of showing clothing on only thin models. Who can tell what the clothes look like on a real body, when they are showing a plus size on a size 8. I even notice in ads/catalogues where the size 8 model is wearing a plus size sample and you can tell that it’s been pinned and pinched, why don’t they get a plus size model in the first place. I’ve always used a plus size model, be it for fittings or advertising In my Elsy shop, all my photo’s are on either my size 18 dress form or my friend/customer Irene, when she is in a picture I always get so many positive comments on how nice it is to see the clothing on a plus size body.
If you could choose any celebrity to wear your clothing, who would it be and why?
Oprah Winfrey. She seems to have great style and has to deal publicly with her weight issues, which I admire, plus any thing she touches turns to gold!! So I would love to have her wear my clothing. Also, Paula Deen, I like her style and she is about food and I like food!! The few times I’ve seen her she looks like she is wearing Eskander or Shiran Guild, which I really admire, and is similar to my designs. She is going to be the marshal at the Rose Bowl parade this year so, maybe I’ll send her a top!
The top she sent me is bright turquoise, and some rebellious part of me really wants to wear it with magenta leggings or a slit-thigh skirt and really long socks.