by Victoria McDougal

Fashion stylists are fast achieving celebrity status. Imagine a store staffed with them.

You know the old saying It’s not the destination, but the journey? Well, when it comes to fashion, believe me, it’s the destination. The journey? A mere afterthought. Which explains why well-dressed women think nothing of devoting their most precious commodity—the better part of a day—to visit a clothing Mecca called Coco Pari, with outposts in the hip little Monmouth County towns of Red Bank and Deal. Coco is the total package, offering head-to-toe fashion and, more importantly, a point of view you won’t find in any department store. Staffed by young fashionistas bubbling with style, ready to plug a customer in and cover her act from every angle, Coco Pari has created a new breed of saleswoman-meets stylist— a funky hybrid of fashion editor and best friend. Red Bank store manager Briana, Southern transplants Sophie and Faith, playful Lauren and eye-catching Lindsay literally live, eat and breathe fashion. By day, they are consulting with shoppers on silhouettes that flatter each woman’s unique personality and style. By night, they are out and about, texting back and forth about who’s wearing what. They know the trends and they are not afraid to tell customers what looks good, even if they might not be thinking along the same lines. The ladies at Coco Pari have that “it” factor, and it radiates and translates as they work with customers from the trenches to the cash register. What pleases them the most is simply helping women achieve perfection. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should point out that the saleswoman-as-stylist approach is not the main reason why regulars make the trek to Coco to get a fresh new take on their wardrobe each season. That honor goes to Kimberly Landau, the store’s sole accessory, ready-to-wear and evening couture buyer. The sexy, rocker-chic 36-year-old hand-picks and hand-trains each fashion assassin on her floor; she has established a powerhouse retail operation with fans and followers throughout the tri-state area. The ease with which the Coco Pari sales staff pulls outfits is somewhat deceptive. Landau often stays in the store past 2:00 a.m., merchandising like a madwoman, and then game-planning with the girls before the doors open each day. Everything is clean and clarified. Because Landau does the buy, Coco customers can be completely confident that they’re looking at the cherry picked “best of the best.” It’s the key to the Coco Pari experience. “Fashion really is about building confidence for women,” notes Landau, who loves to see women elevate themselves using her store as a workshop. “Coco Pari is not for people who want to stay under the radar. Many people come here with ‘friends’ who won’t give them an honest opinion, but my employees will give it to them straight—one hundred percent.” The actual shopping experience at Coco is difficult to capture in words. To me, it’s like tumbling down Alice’s rabbit hole into a decadent, bejeweled jackpot of Jimmy Choos, Herve Legers and Christian (!) Louboutins. It’s an animal print upholstered, crystallized toy box perfectly fitting for the innermost reaches of the feminine psyche. It’s nice to know that somewhere—in between Lacrosse games, pick-ups and drop-offs, charitable nights out on the town, and everything else that finds its way onto our overcrowded calendars—you can still find a fairy godmother like Kimberly to help women transform their mood, their minds and their hearts.

Editor’s Note: Vicki McDougal is a television producer and photographer who has been working in the fashion industry for more than 20 years. She snapped the photos for this feature. Coco Pari ( is located at 17 Broad Street in Red Bank and at 270 Norwood Avenue in Deal.