Photo credit: Getty/John Lamparski
Carly Cushney is a name that carries tremendous weight in the fashion industry. Since the launch of her brand, Cushni (formerly known as Cushni et Ochs) in 2008, she has gained a huge presence with her clean-lined, minimalistic design aesthetic. Amassing fans all the way from Michelle Obama to Jennifer Lopez, Cushney embraces signature design codes of deliberate cutouts, soft draping and pleating, and monochromatic color palettes. The brand’s stockists were global — from Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus to Harvey Nichols and Net-a-Porter — and it enjoyed countless CFDA nominations and daytime TV placements. You couldn’t avoid a cushion original in the early 2010s.
“There was a lot with running the company and being on a fashion schedule that was constant, just pushing products. You’re obviously still creative, but it has to be more formulaic.”
Through Cushni, Carly taps into a particular style of femininity that nods to Donna Karen, Diane von Furstenberg and Vera Wang: delicate yet incredibly bold and dynamic. But the London-born designer closed the doors on his eponymous label in 2020, shocking the industry. As fashion prepares for another New York Fashion Week without the brand, which was an anchoring show, Karlie is relieved.
“Running the company and being on the fashion schedule was a lot that was constant, just pushing products,” she tells PopSugar. “You’re obviously still creative, but it has to be more formulaic because you have to wait to get a collection.”
Designers talk about burnout all the time, creating multiple collections a year, managing store fulfillment and press obligations, and sometimes even creating diffusion lines. It can all take a toll on you. There is a sense of creative freedom some designers feel when they remove themselves from the constraints of the traditional fashion calendar. Carly will agree. It’s clear he’s excited to be in a new space now, a place rooted in exploration without borders. “Being able to jump into different worlds was really exciting and allowed me to work with creatives who do things differently.”
Image Source: Getty / Pietro D’aprano
Today, she’s got her hands in a variety of places, from collaborating on artisan jewelry capsules to her most important role: design consulting for maternity. “By taking what I’ve learned in my nine years of designing collections, I can repair it to do many different projects,” she says. “And that excites me because it’s constantly doing something new and exciting, sometimes something that even scares me a little.”
If you take a peek at her Instagram, you will see that she is still as glamorous as ever and surrounds herself with beauty. She’s interested in creating content — making style videos about black-owned brands and transitional dressing — and letting the world in on her impeccable interior-design taste.
In April, she unveiled an interior project on her Instagram, captioning the photo: “Whether it’s fashion or interiors or anything else I love to create and explore and dive into something new.” The TriBeCa apartment, rich in pink and soft linens and boucle fabrics, introduced Karlie’s interiors to the world and was even featured in Elle’s decor. “Having the freedom and flexibility to take on projects that I really love and want to dive into has given me a kind of huge freedom and inspired me to think outside the box in a new way,” she says.
Carly is also exploring other disciplines in fashion design. Collaborating with Sterling, the ethical LA-based jewelry brand founded by Chelsey Bartrum, Karlie is debuting a five-piece capsule collection inspired by the meeting of sea and sky and the fusion of East and West coasts and cultures.
“[Bartrum and I] inspired by different things,” she says. “I live in New York, and Chelsea is in California, so it was just the intersection of both coasts.” Bertram notes that they used Carly’s new state of mind as inspiration “that was so important to strength and independence. [Starling] To express through the collection we created together,” she says.
But Cushni’s fans still hope that there is a place for fashion design in her future. Carly is elusive, but she promises she hasn’t completely abandoned the dress. “I can’t really say much, but I’ve got a few little things in the fall,” she teases. “I’m still working on fashion and interiors – and a thing in performance. It’s been a fun journey.”