Despite having resolved at an early age to become a fashion designer, I also developed a keen interest in nutrition and exercise science. Adamant that I could and would pursue both my passions simultaneously, I qualified as a personal trainer alongside my fashion degree.
Achieving my Fashion BA in 2012 at Kingston University London, my graduate collection proved a great success, seeing me shortlisted as a finalist for numerous awards including the prestigious Lycra Future Designers Award at the WGSN Global Fashion Awards, the Gold and Womenswear Awards at Graduate Fashion Week and the Vauxhall Fashion Scout Merit Award. I am now developing the first independent collection for my eponymous activewear label, Charli Cohen, set to launch in stores next January.
Having secured three seasons worth of fabric sponsorship from Lycra and with two years’ experience running my own marketing and branding consultancy alongside my degree, I have endeavoured to develop a strong set of business skills alongside my creative pursuits.
Prior to commencing my degree, my first foray into fashion was at 15, designing and customising a range of T-shirts and selling to boutiques. At 17, I travelled to South East Asia to have a womenswear collection produced, which was sold through a selection of stores in the UK and New Zealand.
Whilst I use my background in sports science to create ergonomic, high-performance sportswear, my fashion-oriented approach refuses to sacrifice style for function, resulting in garments that should not only feel good to train in, but look good too!
My graduate collection and all the latest news on my upcoming line can be found at charli-cohen.com.
What inspired me to become a personal trainer?
Like many, I had a little weight I wanted to lose, so started trying out various diet and exercise methods I’d seen written about and advertised. I was 14 at the time. By 15, I was eating half a cup of pumpkin soup and two carrots each day, paired with two hours of exercise before school in the morning, followed by another two hours at the gym after school. At 17, emaciated, malnourished and depressed, I finally faced facts – what had started off as ‘just a diet’ had somehow developed into a full-blown and deadly eating disorder. Determined I would not require medical intervention, I did things how I always prefer to do them – myself.
Armed, finally, with real, scientifically-valid research into sustainable nutrition, fitness and health, I began my long and painful self-recovery. It took me a year of concentrated effort and emotional upheaval to repair my metabolism, followed by four more years of reversing the physical ramifications of my extreme eating and exercise habits, a journey that I’m only now nearing the end of.
At 18, spurred by a strong sense of responsibility to help prevent others from my mistakes, a fascination with medical journals and a real love for nutrition and fitness, I qualified as a personal trainer, wrote an ebook and began my work in the fitness industry.
Whilst my eating disorder and subsequent recovery were gruelling, I can say with absolute honesty that I wouldn’t be the trainer, or indeed the person I am today, without having come through that experience.
Females in the PT industry
Like it or not, for centuries, sport has inarguably been a male dominated area. It’s only in recent years that the popularity of women’s sport is starting to make a real dent in this. The same can be said for the personal training industry: though male dominated for years, I’m thrilled to see that female trainers are on the increase. With an ever growing number of super-fit female role models (boosted even further by our success at the 2012 Olympics), it’s widely apparent that females are not in fact the weaker sex; that we’re equally capable of training and motivating clients to the peak of their genetic potential, whatever their physique, performance or health goals.
There’s been a notable, positive change in the last few years in the perception of female trainers: we seem to be moving on from what was once an ‘intimidation factor’. Yes, some men still feel emasculated by a woman who’s stronger than them and some women still feel inadequate or self-conscious having to ‘perform’ in front of a female who (at this stage) is fitter than them. However, with female trainers now far more commonplace, an increasing number of people now see a trained and experienced fitness professional as a trained and experienced fitness professional, regardless of gender. Which is exactly as it should be!
Read more on being a personal trainer and the male/female PT divide on our previous post “Why aren’t there more female personal trainers?”
You can follow the inspirational Charli Cohen on Twitter @TrainWithCharli, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CharliCohenOfficial. And don’t forget to keep up to date with the latest on Charli’s activewear line by checking out charli-cohen.com.
Charli will be sharing her knowledge of all things fitness fashion with Fitcetera readers. For Charli’s round-up of what to wear for your workouts, season by season, stay tuned to Fitcetera.co.uk.