In a beautiful message about fluidity and inclusion, Jonathan Cohen’s spring collection bridged the culture of the designer’s Mexican and American heritage.

Cohen grew up with seamless borders in San Diego, and sought to integrate the colorful spirit of Mexican handicraft with the relaxed vibes inherent to California. He opened the show with a colorful striped dress inspired by an image he found of a traditional Mexican serape blanket woven to resemble the American flag. Here, the vibrant stripes and white stars were all embroidered by hand in Mexico City, with the hand-stitched signature of the woman who made it on the back.

Infusing an artisanal quality is a key component to Cohen’s design M.O. Not every garment was made by local artisans, but there was a feeling of hand processes that makes the clothes feel more personal. Surface elements ran the gamut from ornate (the closing serape dress), to homespun (floral embellishments on flutter sleeves), to polished and refined (like an elegant white tent dress). He evolved last season’s handkerchief dress into a great tailored coat and a maximalist version with solid bright panels.

There was humor and whimsy, too, through serendipitous prints featuring California motifs like a grizzly bear, blue jay or surfer, all in an uplifting rainbow palette.

Beginning this season, the clothes will also have a hallmark of sustainability. The woven skirt paired with a yellow button-down shirt was constructed of unused fabric strips, which were also appeared as hair ties or accessory accents. In tandem with Swarovski, he utilized 8,000 upcycled Swarovski crystal beads to adorn cocktail dresses and colorful Teva sandals. “We’re really trying to be conscious of our waste,” Cohen said post-show, adding: “It’s not going into a landfill and you’re saving money.”

 

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