Alison Chow: Founder Of International Luxury Brand & Mother Of Three

5 min read

Adored by A-Listers since 2002, Coco Ribbon is a multi-award winning fashion brand, the wellspring of Alison Chow.

Counting style icons and doyennes of the fashion world Poppy Delevingne, Sienna Miller, Jo Malone and Elle Macpherson as clients, Coco Ribbon started its life as a high-end lifestyle boutique in Notting Hill, London which Alison and her then business partner, Sophie Oliver, launched in 2002. The brand enjoyed exponential growth over a short period, quickly opening a store on Sloane Square opposite Chloé, retailing with Harvey Nichols and Neiman Marcus and featuring in British Vogue, amongst other prestigious glossies. The Coco Ribbon boutique was an investor’s dream. Then, the GFC hit and the ladies went their separate ways.

Coco Ribbon Alison Chow SS16 Iris Lillian Photography
Alison Chow of Coco Ribbon in Hong Kong

Now living in Sydney with her husband and three children, Alison has transitioned from retailer to designer, relaunching the brand five years ago, and creating exquisite, unique collections under the Coco Ribbon brand.

CR SS16 Lace Floral Hero Coco Ribbon photograph
Coco Ribbon Spring/Summer 2016 Lace Floral top – photo courtesy of Coco Ribbon

I caught up with Alison during the launch of Coco Ribbon’s Spring/Summer 2016 collection in Hong Kong last week. We chatted away while she set up the showroom: negotiating with tradesmen, steaming clothes, merchandising to perfection, and patiently posing for photos in 99% humidity. There’s no doubt that this lady can multi-task! Aside from her bachelor’s degrees in Commerce and Marketing, this talent is likely key to Alison’s success in running an international fashion brand AND rearing three small human beings.

CR SS16 Persian Print Hero Coco Ribbon Photograph
Coco Ribbon Spring/Summer 2016 Persian Print dress – photo courtesy of Coco Ribbon

I can barely get my butt out of bed in the morning, let alone juggle Alison’s load. Feeling a little dumbstruck, I wondered “how on earth does she do it?!” Graciously, Alison offered a little insight: 

“I’m not going to sugar coat it, it’s really hard and often not glamorous.  I manage by having a great team of people who have worked with me for a long time and I think the more you do something the easier it is next time so you get more efficient.  Also before I had children I’d probably spend time trying new things that didn’t get results – now I just do what is important and will have an impact so my attention no longer gets wastefully diverted.”
CR AW16 OYSTER SEQUIN RETOUCHED Coco Ribbon photograph for Iris Lillian
Coco Ribbon Autumn/Winter 2016 Oyster Sequin top – photo courtesy of Coco Ribbon

For those aspiring fashion designers, Alison’s advice is,

“find a mentor who has experience on the business side of fashion that can guide you through to launch or your next growth stage – even if you have to pay a consultant/someone to help, it will be money well spent.”
Coco Ribbon photograph AW16 HERO RUFFLE SHIRT
Coco Ribbon Autumn/Winter 2016 Ruffle Shirt – Photo courtesy of Coco Ribbon
There is sometimes a particular event, conversation, or defining moment when we realise that “hey, I’m actually doing something pretty damn good here, yup I rock”, giving ourselves a virtual pat on the back. Alison’s moment was,
 “when Kylie Minogue came into our Notting Hill boutique and asked for me by name because she wanted to stock her lingerie label with us.  That was definitely a career highlight and when I knew we were onto something special.” 
Coco Ribbon Autumn/Winter 2016 Feather Print – Photo courtesy of Coco Ribbon

Known for its luxe-boho style and signature embellishments and prints, Alison’s time in Hong Kong, London, and New York, as well as her Chinese heritage, continue to influence her garment design and the label’s aesthetic. The result is expertly cut and effortlessly elegant pieces and potential go to Super-Hero outfits. You know the ones you reach for when you haven’t been to the gym for months, you worked until to 2am the night before and you’re feeling hollow, gross and flat? They fit you in all the right places, flatter your complexion, enhance your body shape and give you that little confidence boost? Super Hero outfits are not easy to come by, but I think Alison’s attention to detail and eye for flattering designs and elegant fabrics means that Coco Ribbon’s collection has “Super Hero” written all over it.

Coco Ribbon Spring/Summer 2016 - images care of Coco Ribbon by Iris Lillian
Coco Ribbon Spring/Summer 2016 – images courtesy of Coco Ribbon

Speaking of work – for those, like me, who have to abide by the sartorial parameters (read: uniforms) imposed on a profession or industry, these outfits can be easily tweaked to ensure office apropos: power it up with tailored trousers, a silk blouse, statement jacket and court shoes, then lose the jacket (or add leather shorts) and incorporate a feather or sequin top and strappy heels to transition to rooftop drinks, dinner with friends or a hot date.

Coco Ribbon Autumn/Winter 2016 collection - photos courtesy of Coco Ribbon
Coco Ribbon Autumn/Winter 2016 – images care of Coco Ribbon

The quality and intricacy of the fabrics and designs struck me as soon as I arrived at the showroom. I couldn’t stop taking photos of the silks, prints, leather, feathers, and embellishments! Please indulge me as I share…

Coco Ribbon Alison Chow London Sydney Hong Kong for Iris Lillian
Coco Ribbon Autumn/Winter 2016 leather, embellishments, silks and feathers
Coco Ribbon Autumn/Winter 2016...
Coco Ribbon Autumn/Winter 2016…
Coco Ribbon Alison Chow London Sydney Hong Kong for Iris Lillian
Coco Ribbon Spring/Summer 2016 print
Iris Lillian photograph for Coco Ribbon SS16 collection with Alison Chow fashion brand
Coco Ribbon feather top
Coco Ribbon feather top
Coco Ribbon feather top
Coco Ribbon Alison Chow London Sydney Hong Kong for Iris Lillian
Coco Ribbon signature embellished top

Coco Ribbon’s Autumn/Winter 2016 collection is available here and available from these stockists. The Spring/Summer 2016 collection will be available online from August.

Please note that this publication is not an advertorial – no money or products were exchanged.

  1. AH says

    Great story! I’ve discovered a new designer. And I love the luscious fabric photos at the end.

    1. Elissa says

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece AH! Do you have any favourite Australian brands?

  2. […] passions, fledgling and established businesses. In this case, it was Alison Chow (I wrote about here), a mutual friend of Jo and Ness, who suggested we meet. And it was Jo’s family and friends, […]

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