Hand sanitizer, a pet Betta fish named Selena and flowers crowdsourced through an Instagram Stories poll are just a few of the inspirations that went into Jonathan Cohen’s charming fall 2022 collection, which carries forward his sustainable brand messaging with inventive upcycling techniques and timeless feminine pieces.
The New York designer has gone his own way when it comes to the fashion calendar, keeping images of the collection under wraps until the first of it is ready to sell on his website.
But he’s already been preselling the clothing on the road for several weeks, at trunk shows in Miami, Houston and Chicago.
“People are ordering a lot of special pieces for events, and surprisingly, one of our top sellers has been pants,” he said, signaling that WFH days may truly be behind us.
Cohen’s pandemic pivot involved launching a digital flower market in April 2020 with his own hand-drawn bouquets that could be sent virtually. Ever since, blooms have continued to be a signature of his fashion collections.
For this season’s, titled “Reflections,” he turned to his community, posting 10 flowers on social media and asking his followers to choose. They picked dahlias and anemones, which led Cohen to the flower market, and eventually to the idea of flowers submerged in water.
To create a more viscous look to the floral photo prints, he turned from water to hand sanitizer, of all things, coating the blooms in one of the hallmarks of COVID-19 life. “There was something great about taking something traumatic and making it beautiful,” he said of creating an abstracted effect with twinned flowers on fluid silk separates and dresses, ponte knits, body-skimming stretchy sheath dresses, tops and skirts.
Cohen’s pet fish Selena, with her tail swishing, was also immortalized in print. “Originally, I’d wanted to do two fish, but you can’t use two Betta fish or you’d have a very messy tank,” he laughed.
The designer’s knitwear business is growing and this season he offered ponte separates in fun house, reflective stripes, as well as deadstock yarn crewnecks with hand-embroidered dahlias or dandelions that look as if they are flying away, made by a women’s co-op in Peru.
It is inspiring to see how pretty Cohen can make sustainability look season after season, as on a minidress and a pair of party pants made from upcycled print fabrics cut into paillettes. They were ready to shimmy onto the dance floor.
“We’re doing a custom paillette tunic and some other paillette pieces,” he said of the popular effect. “Our custom evening business has been growing,” said the designer, who is a custom clothing go-to for First Lady Jill Biden, of course. “They are coming to us which is great.”