Posted in Fashionista
April 11, 2022

Jonathan Cohen Crowdsourced the Florals in His Latest Collection

Fashionista

Jonathan Cohen took a somewhat unprecedented approach to picking what florals he would highlight in his Fall 2022 collection: He asked his audience directly, on Instagram. 

“I was thinking of what flowers I wanted to do this season, and I thought it would be a fun way to get people involved and see what they wanted to wear and what flowers they were gravitating towards,” he says. “I did a poll, and we got such crazy engagement on it, so I felt I had to stay true to it, even if I didn’t like the flowers. Luckily, they chose flowers I really love.”

First up was the dahlia. “I’ve always loved the dahlia because it’s very beautiful but also has this sinister vibe to it,” Cohen says. “It’s very complex, and I love a complex object — something that has a lot of different meanings to it. It comes in all these different colors and luckily, it’s in season.” 

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Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Cohen

He worked with photographer Spencer Ostrander to capture the dahlia within this idea of self-reflection. They wanted to make it seem like the flower was floating on water — but once they had the set-up, “we couldn’t get the reflective feel.” So, in the studio, they started looking for alternatives, when Strander suggested hand sanitizer, “because we had a lot of that, for obvious reasons,” Cohen says. “It worked really well… I like the metaphor of it, taking something that’s traumatized all of us and making it into something beautiful.” 

In second place came the anemone, which, unlike the dahlia, is not in season, so Cohen opted to illustrate it. That allowed him to offer two different approaches to prints — one photo-realistic and more graphic, the other hand-drawn and more personal. As far as what he learned from this experiment: ”People are very opinionated.” 

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Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Cohen

The anemone is more of a “traditional” Jonathan Cohen floral, in the sense that it’s an original illustration. Though, if you’ve followed the brand for a while now, you know these are far from traditional and rarely straightforward — rather, flowers are a jumping-off point, a primary source to reinterpret and translate into something else entirely. In the case of the anemones, Cohen wanted them to look like “reflecting lights… like when you see stars.” 

This collection covers both flora and fauna. Cohen’s pet fish Selena (for Quintanilla, not Gomez, he clarifies) makes an appearance in Fall 2022. Inspired by Hiro’s “Fighting Fish” photographs, he created an abstract print based on an image of Selena’s tail and its reflection. It’s a follow-up to Spring 2022’s bumble bee houndstooth. The brand’s venture into animal prints (there was also a garden floral last season that had little critters among it) hasn’t necessarily been a calculated shift: “It was right for what we were doing,” says Sarah Leff, co-founder and CEO.  “I kind of just go with my gut,” adds the designer. “Selena came into my life, so I thought we should use her.” 

The Selena print is translated across a tonal green silk and a black-and-white sweater, which sees the texture of the tail reflected in the feel of the knit.

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Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Cohen

Cohen and Leff already took this collection to market, hosting trunk shows across the country. That allowed them to get some early feedback on Fall 2022 and what’s working best for the brand. “Our pants killed it, which is really nice,” Cohen says. “The way we work, it’s really important to nail one thing, it’s not about doing everything. We really have this dress shapes that are tried-and-true and people love and buy every season. I’ve been wanting to expand into pants and suits because that’s something I really love doing. To see people react so nicely to the pants and buy them… It’s always great when you can expand into that wardrobe. Not everybody wears dresses. That opens up a whole new customer base for us.”

The industry may still operate on a seasonal calendar, but the Jonathan Cohen brand has preached a more timeless approach to building a wardrobe, creating pieces that are meant to live in your closet for years (not just six months) and releasing tighter collections that allow the customer to shop strategically. This connects back to its efforts to reduce its waste as much as possible and use all of its materials until they’re gone. That’s what The Studio does, and that’s why you see fabrics from past seasons come back in the linings of blazers, the embellishments on a gown and the paillette fringe in the Fall 2022 lineup. 

“I’m a fashion designer, and we’re supposed to push things forward. I love pushing that idea of upcycling and waste reduction forward [by] making it this super creative thing, because that gets people excited about it,” Cohen says. “It’s a great tool to get people to listen to a bigger problem.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Jonathan Cohen

This season, the team challenged themselves to make use of its materials in a way it hadn’t before: in eveningwear. ”That opens your mind to a whole new world,” Cohen says. It meant taking fabrics from Spring 2022, bonding them, laser-cutting them into this disc fringe, resulting in a truly stand-out paillette mini dress and trouser; and also wrapping the gems and beads that cover a floor-length gown with the textiles and hand-sewing them on. 

The overall result is a collection of joyful, mindful pieces — the kind that evoke a feeling as soon as you put them on. 

“You’re seeing people go through really difficult times. And we created these pieces that help you be happy and enjoy yourself, because you do need that to deal with those hard struggles. I see that when people put on the clothes — they start to dance and they feel really good. That’s why I started this and why I’ve always designed. My mission’s really simple these days. It’s to help people feel good and escape a bit.”

See the full Jonathan Cohen collection in the gallery below. 

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Ana Colón

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