One happy dress.
For designers in the Instagram-obsessed and pandemic-squeezed era, sometimes that’s all it takes to make an impact with a seasonal collection. (Of course, it helps when Taylor Swift wears it, as happened with Oscar de la Renta’s fall 2021 floral embroidered minidress and the Grammys.)
Jonathan Cohen also has a winner in his fall collection, which he unveiled Monday to align with its arrival in stores and on his e-commerce site. It’s a curve-hugging column, made entirely from deadstock fabrics smocked together into colorful print perfection with a whimsical Dalmatian-spot ruffle edge. Both sustainable and chic, now it just needs some starlet love.
“This collection is super happy, playful and dreamy, which helps because people are looking for any type of escape, even in their wardrobe,” Cohen said during a preview of the floral-heavy lineup, which let the prints do the talking on simple shapes, including shirtdresses, button downs, circle skirts and easy dresses.
Cohen sketched the collection during quarantine, when he was home in San Diego with his family, spending a lot of time considering the flora and fauna in his mom’s garden. The critter garden party print on a charming ruffle-strap sundress? “That was me sitting outside and looking at hummingbirds, fireflies, all the flowers, and having a little party in my mind,” said the designer, who creates all of his own prints, and extended his artful touch to a great-looking denim suit hand-painted with oversized blooms.
A multicolored magnolia print on a marigold background also popped on a long dress with the ease of a caftan that could be styled different ways with the matching scarf, and a tunic that could double as a minidress.
In a nod to comfort, he launched JC Basics, inspired by a lip-print jersey dress of his that Lupita Nyong’o wore several years back. With recycled polyester tops, leggings and side-twist dresses in candy stripe or tulip prints, sized XS to XXL and priced under $400, it should open up his brand to a new customer.
He also made the case for spending a bit more on investment dressing (which seems to be what we’re calling wearing something more than once now), showing a floral jacquard version and a gray plaid version of the famous Jill Biden A-line tailored wrap coat.
For Cohen, the Jill Biden effect is still real four months after the first lady put his label in the spotlight when she wore his ultraviolet wrap coat and matching mask and gloves to kick off inauguration weekend in Washington, D.C. (Note the addition of fun printed matching gloves in his fall lineup, inspired by his muse in the White House, he said.)
“She keeps wearing our masks, she’s reworn our coats, and whenever she does we see a spike in sales,” he said, while acknowledging that thankfully, because of the vaccine rollout, purchasing of masks has slowed a bit since the peak in January.
Cohen is one of several New York designers who has broken free of the fashion calendar, and even as plans for fashion week in September solidify, he has no intension of going back.
“It wasn’t so sustainable, and we’ve found a way we like working that’s good for the business, our personal lives and from a creative standpoint,” he said. “You wouldn’t want every musician to release an album in one week. We need to start looking at it like that.”