How Twin Hustlers Launched a Celebrity Eyewear Brand at 19
A rad pair of sunglasses will turn heads, maybe change the way people perceive you, and project an aura of cool sophistication. A remarkable pair works the other way around — it transforms the way you see the world.
Heads up. Shades on. This is the world according to Coco and Breezy.
You might call them the prototypical New York success story. In just a few years these twin style icons have taken the fashion world by storm, becoming unexpected eyewear moguls at the ripe old age of 24 and building a global brand in the process. In fact, their journey from the burbs of Minnesota, where they were bullied for being the kids with “lip piercings, crazy red mohawks, black lipstick,” to designing sunglasses coveted by celebs like Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna, only confirms the idea that rock star entrepreneurs such as these are born, not made.
Yet you’d never guess that this duo, who became known as “The MySpace Twins” during the early years of social media fandom with nearly 35K followers, were social misfits growing up in small town Apple Valley, Minnesota.
The first litmus test for any entrepreneur worth her salt is being able to turn a negative into a positive. Naturally, the disapproving gaze of Midwestern suburbia and its lack of artistic outlets proved to be a boon to the sisters’ creative development.
Breezy explains, “There weren’t a lot of resources for girls who were artistic and different. So that pushed us to be creative because we couldn’t go to an art store that had everything. We had to create it ourselves. We were so different from everybody that we got bullied. So that’s how we got our passion and our love for sunglasses.”
If 99% of style is having the nerve to pull off a look no one has ever dared before — Coco and Breezy have balls. Looking back on those rough teenage years, the girls concede, “We were so ahead of our time. We hid behind our sunglasses.” They may not have had anyone to sit next to at lunch, but what they lacked in social confidence they made up for in spades. They were absolutely fearless in their exploration of fashion and all its possibilities for self-expression.
“We’re artists. We’re not fashion designers. Glasses are our medium.”
The same goes for their sheer grit and determination in pursuing their dreams. At 19 they visited New York City for the first time. A month later they had quit their jobs, sold their car, and were back in the city. No job, no plan, no problem.
“People are just afraid of falling on their faces, and they’re afraid of reality, and they’re afraid of living uncomfortable. But that’s the whole point of life: living on the edge, living uncomfortable. It’s fun to be like, ‘oh shoot, how am I going to pay rent in 3 weeks?’ That’s the tight part. That’s the time when you come up with the most amazing ideas.”
Six years in NYC and they’ve never paid rent late once. In truth, Coco and Breezy have been making ends meet since they were 15, when their dad suffered several strokes and the doctor ordered him to stop working. The girls wasted no time in picking up the slack. Their friend Oanh hooked them up with an interview at Leeann Chin, a local Chinese restaurant, and the manager hired them on the spot.
“I frickin’ loved that job,” Coco enthuses. “I’ve always thought big. I was like, ‘I’m going to work here and start off on the cash register.’ Then I want to go to the back and learn how to cook. I used to go to the cooks and be like, ‘Teach me how to cook!’ I would go to the manager, ‘You counting money, you have a system? Teach me how to do that. I eventually want to be the GM of this restaurant.’ Anything I do, I want to be on top.”
An incredible work ethic, then and now, has been key to Coco and Breezy’s success. Their personalities complement each other perfectly, as one would imagine of twin business partners who regularly finish each other’s sentences.
Coco, chill and laidback, the girly girl of the two, has a sharp design eye and a knack for product execution. While Breezy, the more assertive, no-filter-will-say-anything sister, taps into her rich imagination to dream up the designs that eventually make it into their eyewear collection.
Living humbly in Bushwick, they re-invest every cent they make back into the business. The twins say they won’t have “made it” until they’ve built up a company infrastructure that runs itself. Still, they’ve come a long way since the days of selling sunglasses to MySpace fans via PayPal.
“Celebrities are cool, but we want to make everyone feel like a celebrity.”
Their clientele now boasts a diverse set of celebrity devotees. Ashanti was the first to discover them, and when she showed up wearing a custom pair of their shades at the Hip Hop Honor Awards in 2009, the brand blew up overnight. Kelly Osbourne lifted a pair straight off of red carpet interviewer Micah Jesse (also a friend of the twins). Soon after she was seen sporting them on Good Morning America and Dancing with the Stars. Then mega-star Prince came knocking and the iconic, round-rimmed 3rdeyeglass with those unforgettable psychadellic blue lenses was born (which he wore at his most recent SNL performance). But it’s not all about the celebs.
“My dream client is that person from the Midwest that is far away from the city that knows nothing about fashion and they fuck with Coco and Breezy. That’s the dream client. Celebrities are cool, but we want to make everyone feel like a celebrity. Our glasses make you feel like a celebrity.”
Put on a pair of Coco and Breezy sunnies and the glasses become the statement, not the accessory. Their signature boldness — Art Deco detailing, exaggerated frames, and geometric shapes — make it hard to look away from anyone gutsy enough to don a pair.
If anyone has raised eyewear to the level of high art, taking greater risks with each collection, it’s Coco and Breezy. “We’re artists,” they assert. “We’re not fashion designers. Glasses are our medium.”
Often they draw inspiration from everyday things in the world around them; for instance, the clean, structural lines of a bridge. Some days they’ll reroute their commute to change up the scenery and give their eyes fresh terrain to feast on.
Most days Coco and Breezy are Rick Ross hustlin’ times two. But even in the midst of planning social media campaigns and photoshoots, strategizing brand collaborations and new opportunities in optical eyewear, they still find time to mentor young entrepreneurs and pass on the lessons they’ve learned.
For starters, tune out those “energy vampires” — the naysayers, the people who want to put you in a box — and follow what the heart says. “We are willing to fall down, flatten our face, and show people that it’s possible. You can do it too,” Breezy says. “It’s not about glitz and glam. It’s not about material. People say that success is money. Success isn’t about money, it’s about your pure happiness. So if you’re working at McDonalds and you started off at the register and now you’re the GM and you’re happy doing that, you’re the shit.”
“I tell people, don’t be afraid of reality,” Coco adds. “If you have a dream, live for yourself. Don’t try to live for somebody else. Don’t live for your parents, don’t live for your friends, live for you.”
So the next time you throw on a pair of wing-tipped Zesiros in tortoise shell or flip down a set of Rainy Day shades, sunglasses fit for a comic book hero, just remember this Coco and Breezy maxim: there’s nothing more badass than being who you are.