Cotone may mean cotton in Italian, but to boutique owner Alex De Mola, it means so much more.
By Maddy Hill
A long-haired Yorkshire Terrier puppy, Minnie, runs over to the door, with her tail wagging and tongue hanging out of her mouth, to greet new customers as they walk into the brightly lit boutique. De Mola, wearing a cream colored cable knit sweater, dark jeans and a welcoming smile, simultaneously welcomes customers with a “hello” in his rich Italian accent.
De Mola grew up on the outskirts of Milan, Italy. De Mola’s grandmother made dresses for his mother and for small fashion shows in Milan. She raised him because his parents worked busy schedules, so he was surrounded by fashion at an early age. His cousin also worked for Valentino for many years, assembling lookbooks. In his formative years, De Mola even met designers Dolce & Gabbana, who had their first laboratory ten minutes away from his childhood home.
In 2006, De Mola headed to the U.S. after being accepted into UCLA Westwood to study computer engineering. He had been programming computers since he was 15, and he even fixed computers to make money. One day, after studying at his favorite Starbucks, he met Stephan Marsan, son of Brandy Melville founder Silvio Marson. After realizing Marson was also from Italy, De Mola started working with him and Jessy Longo, Marson’s close friend. Together they opened up the first two Brandy Melville stores in the U.S. “It was very random,” De Mola says. “I just started doing some computer stuff for them, but then they started teaching me about retail.”
After visiting Austin and observing the city’s fast growth, De Mola decided to open up his own boutique, with Brandy Melville inventory. “The guys wanted me to go open a Brandy Melville in New York, but I didn’t want to go. I wanted to come to Texas,” De Mola says. He opened Cotone with the idea of offering European-style clothing with a West Coast flair.
The result? Cotone.
The store is now located on Guadalupe Street, a few shops down from Torchy’s Tacos.
Blu Pepper, MINKPINK,and Chaser are just a few brands that can be found within the glass walls of Cotone, along with jewelry from local designers. De Mola is currently in the process of starting his own fashion line, and plans to work with members of the University Fashion Group, picking three designs from UFG members that embody his style.
On the exterior of the Cotone shop, a vintage sewing machine marks the building. This logo was inspired by De Mola’s own antique sewing machine at home, which had belonged to his grandmother up until a few years ago when De Mola had it shipped to the U.S. from Italy. Cotone embodies the warmth and familiarity of De Mola’s heritage. Cotone’s slogan is “Made with love from Italy,” which is what De Mola intended by opening up the shop in Austin, Texas.