The other Fennell sister: Meet fashion designer Coco Fennell

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Carey Mulligan, left, Emerald Fennell and Laverne Cox on the set of "Promising Young Woman." Mulligan wears a Coco Fennell x Ceal Warnants baseball shirt.  - Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features
Carey Mulligan, left, Emerald Fennell and Laverne Cox on the set of "Promising Young Woman." Mulligan wears a Coco Fennell x Ceal Warnants baseball shirt. - Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features

Emerald Fennell may have swept the BAFTAs and won an Academy Award (and the Oscars red carpet, thanks to her sparkly Gucci trainers), but she’s not the only promising young woman in the Fennell family. Cheering Emerald on from home on Oscar night was sister Coco Fennell, a fashion designer with her own brand.

Coco specialises in the kind of vintage-look dresses that make the women wearing them want to twirl. She’s inspired by Biba and Ossie Clark designs from the Sixties and Seventies, as well as unnamed brands on Pinterest and in museum collections.

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“I just wanted to have a brand that made really, really flattering, fun, affordable dresses that you can wear day or night and feel good in,” she says from the Shoreditch studio she shares with five photographers. Rather than create all-new collections every season, she lets favourite styles linger. “I really like honing in on the shapes and recreating them each season in different prints.”

Her gingham and floral dresses have found high-profile fans in Rihanna, Kylie Minogue and Busy Phillips, among others. But it’s a T-shirt that makes a cameo in her sister’s garlanded film that’s bringing Coco a new level of attention.

Cassie, Carey Mulligan’s vengeful protagonist in Promising Young Woman, wears Coco's red-sleeved baseball top for a shift at the coffee shop where she works. The illustration on the front appears to be a nostalgic, naive image of a child petting a Bambi-like fawn.

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“The whole aesthetic of the film is very girly and brightly coloured, and the actual illustration is very in keeping with that,” Coco says. “It looks like an Enid Blyton illustration. But when you look closely, the child has a gun on their back, and the deer has a bullet wound. It looks one way, but actually is another.”

The shirt, a collaboration with illustrator Ceal Warnants, has been in Coco’s range for about two years. She never expected it to become a breakthrough costume item from an Oscar-winning film. Nancy Steiner, the film’s costume designer, called in several pieces from Coco, including a rose-printed midi dress that Cassie wore on a date with Ryan.

“I didn’t know what they were going to use in the film, if anything. It was just luck that it was that shirt.” She’s reordered the T-shirt three or four times and it keeps selling out, with Fran Bacon and Laura Whitmore among the fans snapping it up.

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“The film has definitely made people more aware of my brand, especially in America, and I’m grateful for that," she notes. "But generally, this lockdown period has been good. I think people are being really kind and want to support small businesses like mine.”

Promising Young Woman wasn’t the Fennell sisters’ first time working together – Coco helped style Careful How You Go, Emerald’s 2017 short film, which starred Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

The sisters grew up in London and attended Marlborough College, the same school as the Duchess of Cambridge. They found the best preparation for their creative careers at home, thanks to the examples set by their father, Theo, an A-list jeweller, and Louise, an author.

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When it came time for Louise and Coco to dress up to watch Emerald at the Oscars, there was one clear choice of what to wear: Cassie’s shirt.

“All of them being creative is very inspiring to me, for sure,” Coco says. “We all support each other through whatever we’re doing.” All the way to the Oscars.

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