The Fashion Business That Skipped a Generation

Zach Cohen wanted to be like his grandfather and make clothes. A motorcycle accident convinced him to take the plunge.

“Honestly, it started when I decided to be a hooligan with my friends on my motorcycle,” laughs Zach Cohen, the 24-year-old behind Cohen & Sons Apparel. “I was riding around in Malibu and took a spill; broke my arm. I had a lot of time on my hands and I wound up just going for it, starting a fashion brand.”

The idea of going into the fashion industry wasn’t just a bolt out of the blue. Cohen’s grandfather Jack opened up a clothing factory in 1947 after uprooting his family from Greece to New York City. The Tribeca factory churned out everything from women’s raincoats to men’s apparel for 50 years. Eventually, the factory could no longer compete with cheap operations in Asia. Jack was forced to thrown in the towel.

Still, Jack’s grandson grew up listening to stories about the factory that all followed a similar plot: Massive rolls of fabric were, after a lot of hard work, transformed into clothes. The stories not only held the young boy’s attention, but also stirred a genuine interest. Cohen became determined to build a clothing brand of his own. When he got in his accident, he turned to Kickstarter and raised $11,812 in seed money in ten days. 

“I put everything on the line to revive my grandfather’s manufacturing company,” he says. “Everyone was doubting the fact that you could start a clothing company in this market and I said, ‘There’s no way to know until you try.’”

With the tagline “Fit For A Man,” Cohen and Sons (Zach doesn’t have sons, but is one) sells simple motorcycle culture-inspired t-shirts and comfortable sweatshirts designed to take a beating.  And Cohen has put his goods to the test, traveling to the Mojave Desert to shoot advertisements in the most rugged environment imaginable. “We did everything that could present an opportunity to destroy your shirt,” he says. Nothing frayed.

Now, the entrepreneur is looking to open up a brick and mortar store and make the brand a household name. Considering the success he’s already had, the first goal seems feasible in the short term and the second seems, well, optimistic. Cohen also plans to create more formal apparel, including a line of crisp button-ups.

“In my family’s stories, they always loved what they were doing,” he says. “They talked about how fun it was to create physical goods. Now I get it. It’s rewarding to create something people can actually touch and enjoy.”