A Stripper called Letifa

The wooden shelves in the living area are crammed with books, figurines, board games, frames and other fascinating trinkets. There’s a cluster of reindeer Christmas lights dangling on a corner and a pair of miniature porcelain animals perched in front of a row of rom-com DVDs. As I glide my camera across, I find myself entertained. And then I see it. A picture of Joan Collins, with giant 80s hair, red lipstick and a blonde baby plunked on her leopard print lap. What the heck? I summon Coco who’s busy wriggling herself into a black leotard  in the bedroom. “Coco? Is that who I think it is? Why do you have a picture of Joan Collins??” I am stunned and thrilled by my unimaginable discovery. “Oh yeah,” she giggles. “That’s my godmother!”

Coco Fennell is gorgeous. I don’t know much about her but I have every bit of confidence she is a heartbreaker. She’s like a modern day Betty Boop, with big, seductive eyes, black hair contrasted by flawless, white skin and lips that can pucker any man off the street. When I arrive she wears skin-tight black leggings and a vintage fur-trimmed sweatshirt that contours her voluptuous body in all the right places. She giggles a lot – I don’t have to ask her to smile; it comes as naturally and fluently as water from a spring. Her East London loft is a sunny oasis in the most destitute of areas. Every inch of the space is decorated with retro: a lampshade in the shape of a pharaoh’s head, a vintage food tray trimmed with plastic roses, wooden chairs painted in different colors and stamped with flower stencils, all things collected and displayed over the course of the three years she’s lived on her own. “I’m quite sad I’ve filled it now,” she sighs. “I can’t fit in anymore awesome crap. It sort of looks like a spoilt 5-year old girl’s bedroom.”

Coco is 23-years old and grew up in London. Her dad is master jeweler Theo Fennell – “he makes wonderful things with real emphasis on craftsmanship and a fun side.” She signed with Storm models about a year ago – “I’ve done a bit of modelling here and there but probably not for long (see favorite foods!)” – and has been operating an increasingly successful, eponimous line of dresses from her apartment for just over a year. “I wanted to make fun, vintage-inspired dresses with hand-illustrated prints that aim to flatter lots of different shapes and sizes of women,” she explains. “I think many designers make awesome stuff that only flatters a tiny percentage of women, which is a shame. I thought there was a gap in the market for dresses in a few staple flattering shapes in lots of different prints and color ways. Someone like Diane Von Furstenberg does this so well. She sticks to what she know works and I try to emulate that.” Her dreams for the near future might seem a bit erratic but not impossible. “I am desperate to join the circus, make documentaries, sing in a folk band and learn how to make neon lights – actually generally to learn more about everything as I can be a bit of an idiot.” And I wish her all the best with that.

She doesn’t see her godmother that often but I notice some Dynasty-cation here and there. “Joan is seriously amazing!” she gushes. “She looks better than me and she’s in her 70s – anyone with that amount of glittery shoulderpaddedness is bound to be cool!” Coco’s first vintage purchase was a “a stud and chain covered leather bra, the kind of shizz Britney would have worn in the early days. I got it on Ebay off a stripper called Letifa. She asked me to send a picture of me wearing it – I politely declined haha.” She gets most of her vintage on-line and applauds her own shopping efficiency. “You can get bargains from all over the world,” she beams, “and magically they always seem to fit well and everything is really cheap. I’ve just stuck to some vintage Ebay shops that over the years have turned into really awesome and successful websites like Nasty Gal and Claire inc.” A typical Coco outfit consists of “one of my own dresses with big Jeffery Campbell shoes, a clutter of gigantic costume jewelry and a vintage fur cardigan.” But she’s never ignores the crazy. “Everything is fair game!” she says triumphantly, but then recoils. “I did recently get a Jean-Charles de Castjelbac muppet print jumpsuit which I haven’t quite got the nerve up to wear yet!” For her date tonight she’ll be wearing a long dress and a yellow cape with a white fur trim, like snow white. “My boyfriend and I love going to the movies and eating candy! That’s our Saturday night, most weekends…” Seriously, who can blame her?


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