After studying visual arts at Dawson College and sewing at École Alyne Larin, Hélène Cohen moved to Paris to study fashion design at the École Guerre-Lavigne—now known as ESMOD—in 1975 and 1976. After returning to Montreal, she began working as a freelance designer in 1978, taking contracts in various niches such as men’s clothing, skiwear and knitwear, notably for the company Alpine Knitwear.
In 1984, Hélène Cohen founded the ready-to-wear women’s label Turquoise Design. She sold the brand’s bold, artistic creations to several Quebec retailers and in her own Bernard Street store/atelier in Montreal. Models that were more intricate were created on-site, while pieces produced in greater quantities were given to subcontractors. For several years, Hélène Cohen shared equipment, staff and workspace with men’s clothing designer Normand Martel and the Dagisco label to reduce operating costs.
Hélène Cohen was a member of the Association des nouveaux créateurs de mode du Québec (ANCMQ) and as such participated in a number of group fashion shows. In 1986 and 1987, as president of the Association, she founded and was editor-in-chief of Grif Design, a promotional magazine.
In 1989, the Turquoise Design brand ceased operations and Hélène Cohen went back to working freelance. She did jobs for various importers of affordable, mass-market ready-to-wear, including Tomex, the company that designed the Jordache jean line for Canada.
In 1992, Hélène Cohen began teaching at the LaSalle College International School of Fashion, Arts and Design in Montreal. In addition to teaching, she continues to work as a fashion consultant, specializing in trends research and product development.
Madeleine Goubau, Contributor