SEATTLE — At Mario’s, one of the most popular — and lucrative — seasonal trunk shows is not by a well-known European or New York house hanging in the store’s various salons, but by a designer whose name isn’t even on the label.

This story first appeared in the November 12, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Surprising, perhaps — yet Los Angeles designer Peter Cohen, represented by only a gold star on the label, ranks among the top of the retailer’s trunk-show earners after eight years of doing business.

“I’d say that we usually do between $80,000 to $100,000 for the fall collections,” said Anna Beard, buyer’s assistant. During a recent Cohen in-store event, the boutiques in Portland, Ore., and Seattle took in a combined total of about $83,000.

Even the designer expressed some surprise over the loyal following in a region considered a notoriously difficult market. While Northwestern women might take their coffee tricked out, they tend to order their clothes straight, and Cohen’s brand of simple chic resonates with such clients, including Melinda Gates, who love the drape of his silks and jerseys.

Longtime Peter Cohen client and financial services professional Mitzi Carletti hasn’t missed a single Peter Cohen trunk show in Seattle. “It’s very clean and classic,” said Carletti, while modeling one of the day’s hottest-selling items: a black silk tennis shirt with a taffeta collar. “They all tend to complement each other and you’re not distracted by them.”

Cohen considers that the highest compliment. “I don’t make clothes that make or break a night of your life,” he said. “I appeal to the woman who has more going on than just clothes.”

This fits the local clientele, said Mario’s women’s fashion director, Lynwood Holmberg. “A lot of Northwest customers don’t like to scream they have money. They appreciate comfort and technology.”

The personal touch goes a long way, too. Longtime client Anna Rosella once spotted a jacket at a trunk show that she wanted, but was put off by the number of women ordering it. She told Cohen she would only buy it if he made hers different from the others. Cohen was happy to accommodate, and sent her the jacket with his initials embroidered in sequins on the inside.

“He even called to see how I liked it,” she recalled excitedly. “How amazing is that?”

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