The transplanted New Yorker is taking on her liberal detractors as the Republican National Convention takes over New York for most of next week. Cochran is the brain behind what she calls the “I Heart GWB” line of clothing.
Her logo is offered on everything from T-shirts to baby bibs, and while her choice of politics might raise a few eyebrows (“It just isn’t what nice girls do”) what is certain is that her pieces are getting attention.
Movie star Bruce Willis and pundit Ann Coulter are just two well-known fans and possessors of Cochran’s pieces.
“It’s interesting to see who is coming out of the woodwork,” said Cochran, “especially in the entertainment industry, which tends to lean so far left.”
The “I Heart GWB” logo is modeled after the famous “I love New York” logo that can be found on T-shirts from Boston to Beijing.
Cochran is aware that her political stance makes her stand out from most of her fellow New Yorkers.
“When I wear the shirts out, just walking on the street, people will come up to me, give me thumbs up sign . . . just to let me know that ‘we’re here, too,’ ” she said.
Cochran, an Irish American, says that she had no political leanings when she started out as a student at NYU.
“I had spent most of the time not caring about politics,” she said. “I came to New York to go to parties and have fun, but I started to get really embarrassed by Clinton toward the end of his term.”
What happened next unexpectedly pushed Cochran into thinking politically.
Cochran began to read all the history and political books she could — “whatever I could get my hands on,” she said.
One morning nearly three years ago, while absorbed in a John Adams biography on the way to work, Cochran had what she called a “mini epiphany” while reading Adams’ ideas on how fortunate Americans are to have the right to choose their own leadership.
As she turned a corner towards her workplace, having already composed an inspirational e-mail in her head for her friends about the passage that had impressed her so much, she saw the second plane strike the World Trade Center.
“It was such bizarre timing, but from then I felt how important it was to be involved,” Cochran said.
Cochran’s sudden urgency about helping America in a time of terrorism was bolstered by how she “admired that way President Bush handled” the aftermath of Sept. 11.
Originally from Wichita, Kansas, the devoted conservative had been working at a fashion house for eight years before deciding to strike out on her own. Her first opportunity came in 2002, at a birthday party for her sister, who was a longtime conservative.
As a gift, Cochran gave her the first “I Heart GWB” T-shirt made with rhinestones, and soon after her sister called her to say people were stopping her in the streets of Washington, D.C., where she lived and asking her about it.
Cochran then launched her Web site, through which she sells the “I Heart GWB” pieces in December of 2003, and expects demand to see her through the election season.
Because of the prohibitive cost of renting a booth, Cochran will not be at the convention. She does, however, have her own way of getting the “I Heart GWB” message across.
“All my friends and I are going to all of the parties, wearing the shirts and handing out cards . . . just getting the word out there,” she said.
One thing Cochran has seen suffer from her venture is some friendships.
“I have changed a lot of social acquaintances,” she admits, “but they were not my friends anyway if this is what threw them off.”
Her designs are selling better in Oklahoma, California and Florida than in New York City, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost eight to one, but Cochran does not seem worried that her adopted hometown is not as gung-ho about what she calls “hearting” GWB.
“I’ve attended many smaller conservative conventions where young women are so excited about this,” she said. “It’s fashionable, and it’s something that makes you look twice.”
This is her first venture into the fashion world, and she plans for more pieces in the near future.
“This is a great opportunity to get started,” Cochran said. “With the money from this, I will be able to move to my next project.”
Hers is hardly the first politically-minded article of clothing. This past spring Marc Jacobs designed a limited edition T-shirt with Hilary Clinton’s face emblazoned on the front. Proceeds went to Clinton’s re-election campaign.
The biggest test for Cochran came when she sent shirts over to the White House for the first lady, her daughters, and former President Bush and his wife. It seems to have gone over well.
“I just got a note back thanking me,” Cochran said.