The small-batch lifestyle brand takes things slow when it comes to producing its limited-edition jewelry, apparel, accessories, and decorative objects.
Story by Julie Pendray
Photography courtesy Dominique Cohen
Comfortable, casual, and creative. That’s the desert look. Dominique Cohen helps each customer find their personal version of that on El Paseo.
“Everything we do is handcrafted, creating as much beauty as we can,” Cohen says of her namesake Los Angeles–based brand. When it comes to jewelry, that often includes casting, finishing the details under a microscope, polishing, and assembling. If it’s fabric design, it could be ice dying, to give a unique impression of color. “Everything is slow around here,” she says. “We make things to measure. We ship custom order[s].”
They can also design a space in a customer’s home or a wardrobe, notes Cohen, who has done wardrobes and jewelry for film and television, including the original Mackenzie necklace worn on HBO’s The Newsroom by Mackenzie Machale (played by Emily Mortimer); and a diamond pave necklace worn by the character Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) in the series finale of Homeland on Showtime.
An ice-dying process lends itself to soft, beautiful colors.
Cohen was a designer for Saks Fifth Avenue and did trunk shows in the desert. In 2021, when people moved to the Coachella Valley during the pandemic, she opened her Palm Desert storefront. “We love the Palm Desert store because it has a gallery feel,” she says. “It has been fabulous. The desert has been a great driving force for us, a great motivation. The pandemic was scary for any luxury brand. Our team is committed to growth. We have a lot of ideas happening. During COVID-19, [over a span] of nine months, we rolled out the hat collection, a limited collection of home space items — silk and linen — plus apparel [and] scarves. We want to cross-platform the brand. We’re good at small batch.”
Cohen uses an ice-dying process to get a richness of color; the color mixes are proprietary. “People are drawn to it because it’s different, but customers don’t know why,” Cohen says. “There are individual touches, so people know it’s a Dominique Cohen.”
All of the brand's hats are made to measure.
According to Cohen, the brand’s success is due to a unified team. She studied art and photography and enjoys composition and aesthetic sensibility. Her two teammates are Nathan Ritacco, an engineer who has studied rocket science, plus another artist and designer, Kelsey Spiroff. How does an engineer with a passion for rockets fit into a jewelry design team? Well, he began as a runner for the company when he was a teenager and grew with the team from there.
“He enjoys the technical details of making something work seamlessly when it is worn on the body,” says Cohen. “His mechanical abilities are incredible, and he has a wonderful sense of detail. Sometimes, people are spending $18,000 on a necklace, so you don’t want it to flip. He can design a tiny element to fit into the design, related to gravity, that will prevent that. Sometimes, the beauty of something is not obvious. We think a lot about symmetry.”
Cohen says many of her customers are collectors, who are attracted by the high level of design. Spiroff was attracted to the brand’s design because “it’s very natural, artisanal. There’s a piece for everybody. Not everyone can do that.”
Delicate jewelry is designed to be layered and pairs well with a personalized hat.
In Palm Desert, the company might put a sign up — “appointment in progress” — and meet with an individual customer to talk about the length and scale of each unique piece. “It’s all very careful, curated. It’s about customer service,” Cohen says. “It can take six months to create a piece.” Take hats, for example, which Spiroff is mainly working on. “They are made to measure, including the brim shape, the height, stitching, jewelry hardware, and triple-dyed fabric. It can be very personalized, with even a personal saying on the sweat band.”
All their work is produced in Los Angeles in limited quantities. Cohen says she’s proud of her L.A. roots. “We do things differently than the rest of the country. We feel so grateful for our success. We’re very focused.”