Steven Cojocaru and the Thrill of the Find at T.J. Maxx

Self-declared “label slut” Steven Cojocaru (better known as Cojo) built a career on the high-style snobbery that dominated the ’90s. But now, the red-carpet correspondent tells Lizzie Crocker, he’s determined to appeal to women everywhere.

Self-declared “label slut” Stephen Cojocaru (better known as Cojo) built a career on the high style snobbery that dominated the ’90s. But now, the red carpet correspondent says he’s determined to appeal to women everywhere. (David Livingston / Get

If Steven “Cojo” Cojocaru doesn’t like it, he’s not afraid to say it. The red-carpet denizen’s acerbic lip and on-screen pen have highlighted celebrities’ ups and downs for nearly 20 years. Forever calling it like it is, Cojo’s pithy one-liners as a TV correspondent have summed up Hollywood’s best and worst dressed. So while Joan Rivers was busy nipping and tucking, Cojo was solidifying his position as the industry’s next wickedly hilarious and fashionable bitch.

Earlier this month, at the annual Met Gala, one of fashion’s most exclusive and glamorous nights of the year, Cojo was praising Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker for effortlessly pulling off this season’s nude trend (courtesy of Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen, respectively) on Entertainment Tonight.

But before the glamour, Canadian-born Cojo was just a self-declared “ glam-obsessed junior fashionista” who moved to Hollywood in the '90s, a time when he says the fashion industry was even more elitist than it is today. According to Cojo, that’s why “this little person with the obnoxiously big mouth broke through then.” Soon enough, he began writing a column for People’s “Style Watch” page and went on to become the magazine’s West Coast editor. The outspoken, trend-spotting guru garnered even more fame when he started making television appearances in 2000, joining Today as style correspondent and reporting live on red-carpet events such as the Oscars for E! and Entertainment Tonight.

Though his exposure level has risen, Cojo fundamentally has not changed. He still spouts vitriol about red-carpet disasters (at the Met Gala this year, he described Beyoncé as a “Michael Jackson impersonator”). But his attitude has shifted slightly with the rest of the sartorial set, who are now as inspired by street style as they are by the runway.

Cojo is learning that finding looks for less has its own appeal. Less than 48 hours after the Met soiree came to a close, he was high-end bargain hunting in downtown Manhattan at T.J. Maxx, for which he is now the spokesman. Delighting in the thrill of the find, Cojo showed off a trove of designer pieces he’d discovered on the racks: an animal-print Dolce & Gabbana shrug, a black-and-white Alice & Olivia shift dress, and a Roberto Cavalli maxi dress, among others. “I went absolutely mental when I saw this designer dress for $299,” he effused.

“Women right now, no matter what strata they’re from, they know what’s going on. They see it on the blogs, they see it in the stores,” Cojo explained. It’s a far cry from when he entered the scene, when designers’ credo was something akin to: “If you’re not wearing these cashmere panties and going to this society party, you’re a loser!”

Times have changed. Women don’t have to wear $300 cashmere panties beneath their $3,000 Chanel frocks to be considered stylish, and that’s a shift Cojo is thrilled about, particularly in light of the current economic climate. But he’s no less of a “label slut” now than he was when he started in the industry. “I’ve found things [at T.J. Maxx] that have made my mouth water,” he gushed, tossing his plumelike blond locks over his shoulder. He even bet his Yves Saint Laurent man-purse on that claim.

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Lizzie Crocker is an editorial assistant at The Daily Beast. She has written for NYLON, NYLON Guys, and, a London-based website.