Photo Credit: Angie Silvy
Pia Øien Cohler has made quite the impression on San Francisco. The petite, blonde Norwegian lawyer from Paris won the heart of one of Silicon Valley’s most eligible bachelors, Matt Cohler. She’s also caught the attention of the city’s most fashionable powerhouses with the opening of her Jackson Square boutique, Pia the Store. The shop opened on Friday, September 16 with not one, but two lavish celebrations. A handful of chic PYTs and dapper gentlemen sipped colorful cocktails at a party on September 15 and the following Thursday, September 22, a group of SF’s A-list ladies joined hostess Sloan Barnett for an intimate lunch in honor of the lovely Øien Cohler.
“I had to stop working for awhile when I came here because I had to wait for my work authorization—my visa. During that time, I just realized that I really really didn’t want to go back to a law firm and do corporate law,” Øien Cohler, resplendent in a white Alaïa frock said before the lunch while sipping a grapefruit cocktail with a pink paper straw. “So I started thinking about what it was that I really wanted to do and what it was that I was really passionate about. Fashion has always been one of those things. Also to just be more involved with something creative and tangible. So opening a store was sort of the dream for me. Then I came across this space and I jumped on the occasion. The previous owner hadn’t even left yet, but the lease was up for renegotiation. So I jumped on that occasion and suddenly I had to make it happen. It’s been an incredible adventure ever since then.”
Photo Credit: Angie Silvy
Part of the adventure has been to stock the store with a selection of hand-picked designers and pieces. Øien Cohler listened to her gut to single-handedly choose each article of clothing. “I love all of these designers and I also, obviously, hope that everyone else will,” Øien Cohler explained. “I tried to pick some really original stuff. Items that you’re not going to find in other places that are carrying the same brand. For example, Zac Posen—I have some amazing original pieces from him. Nina Ricci, Galliano—a designer that actually isn’t that well known here.” Pia the Store is also the proud home to a couple of exclusive collections. House of Dagmar is a Swedish brand and Øien Cohler’s store is the first to carry the line in the U.S. It’s also the only place in SF to find Solace London and Goat.
Before the elegant crowd sat down to eat at a beautiful hot pink tablescape with an overwhelming amount of stunning dahlias, Sloan Barnett welcomed the “fantastic gorgeous women” in attendance to “a new shopping destination.” She thanked Øien Cohler for bringing so much “chicness to our little fishing village” and announced that Øien Cohler has joined the board of California Pacific Medical Center. “I don’t need to shop online anymore!” she toasted enthusiastically. The luncheon, catered by Taste, was a summery meal of ahi tuna Nicoise salad with crisp haricot verts, sweet cherry tomatoes, and tangy Kalamata olives. A crunchy and light flatbread smeared with caramelized onions was served alongside the salad. Whispering Angel—everyone’s favorite rosé—flowed freely. Dessert was dainty scoops of homemade pistachio and salted caramel gelato with a trio of miniature cookies. Guests included actress Connie Nielson, Eventbrite CEO Julia Hartz, and plastic surgeon Dr. Caroline Chang. Lisa Zabelle modeled a blue and pink Shrimps fur coat that matched her sparkling eyes and blush lips. Mary Gonsalves Kinney and Sarah Somberg discussed their adorable dogs, a Yorkie and Cavalier King Charles, respectively.
Photo Credit: Drew AltizerØien Cohler said she was “thrilled and honored to see the support from the women at the luncheon” and admitted to being “a little nervous.” Is she worried about opening a luxury retail shop at a time when more people are shopping online? Not really—she points out that Amazon is opening a physical retail store and believes that the location of Pia the Store will garner enough foot traffic to be successful. “Retail is never going to be completely forgotten,” she said. “It’s something that people will always go to. Online shopping is great, but I don’t think the point of progress is to never leave your house. People are always going to want to wander around and go to boutiques that they didn’t know about. Touching materials, seeing them, having help in the store is something that will never go away. I think it’s actually coming back and hopefully, especially in this neighborhood, Jackson Square.”