You don’t have to go downtown to see the latest fashions—just log onto the Cote-Armour website and meet Izzy Howell, CC ’15, and Shriya Manian, SEAS ’15. The duo just launched their fashion line, a collection of edgy, in-your-face pieces.
“We don’t see ourselves so much as a clothing line as we do an artist collective,” Howell explained. Cote-Armour’s pieces are repurposed from vintage, thrifted, and gifted items found throughout city.
“We love looking at something and saying that’s a brooch and then turning it into something you haven’t thought of before,” Howell said.
Drawing inspiration from music, art, and people, Howell and Manian work to promote art while exposing their brand by designing for musicians and holding photo shoots with artists around New York. “Rock Solid” was their first major shoot, both showing the fall line and capturing the essence of the brand’s identity.
“We design for the gnarly, tough kids who have high aspirations, who go after things and don’t say no and don’t back down,” Manian said.
“Gnarly” is a reoccurring motif throughout their line. Howell and Manian call themselves the “Gnarly Girls,” and the phrase “gnarly girls never die” is written on the back of their favorite piece, the James Jacket, a vintage leather jacket embellished with brooches and beading.
It all began last October when Shriya complimented Izzy’s Creepers—a type of platform men’s dress shoe for women that grew in popularity in the 1970s. Their friendship started a few months later after attending a concert together. Through their mutual love of art, they realized they should start a line. As Shriya originally told Izzy, “We both like to make stuff. Why don’t we make stuff together?”
Manian, a industrial engineering major, and Howell, a visual arts major concentrating in painting, are equal partners in the execution of their products.
Manian handles coding for their websites, photography, some of the business, and comes up with some of the designs. Howell brainstorms and generally refines their design projects, and deals with styling for shoots. She described their partnership as “a perfect thing that couldn’t be described better.”
With a concept and business model in place, the pair knew they needed a name. Over this past summer, they walked around their favorite parts of the city for eight hours brainstorming. After throwing around family names, they settled on Howell’s grandfather’s surname: Armour.
After googling the name to see if it was taken by another line, the pair came across Cote-Armour, a variation of the phrase “coat of arms,” referring to a protective shield used by nobility in the Middle Ages. The designers said they drew inspiration from the phrase “all men are brothers” from Patti Smith’s “Woolgathering,” and recalled the second meaning of “coat of arms,” the family crests etched into shields and banners.
Continuing with the armor motif, their logo is a shield inside a wheel, with eight spokes to represent the Eightfold Path to Enlightenment, which they think represents a balance between the ornate, the simple, and the creative in their line.
From the inspiration and concepts to the execution and marketing, Howell and Manian said they know this is just the beginning. They plan to broaden their business into a project in which art promotes and inspires art.
“We don’t want people to think of it as clothing. We want people to see it as a force of nature,” Howell said.