N.Y. Fashion Week: At Jonathan Cohen, denim in disguise

N.Y. Fashion Week: At Jonathan Cohen, denim in disguise
N.Y. Fashion Week: Jonathan Cohe (Jonathan Cohen)

From New York Fashion Week 2014:

I stopped into Jonathan Cohen's showroom Wednesday morning to see his spring 2015 collection. Cohen, who grew up in the San Diego area and launched his collection in New York in 2011, has been generating buzz with his flirty dresses in subversive hand-painted prints (middle fingers and burned-out, graffitied van siding have been among past season doodles).

His designs are a favorite with Lupita Nyong'o, and shoppers at Maxfield in L.A. and Amaree's in Newport Beach (both stores have placed several reorders). And last month, Cohen launched his first beauty collaboration—a drippy dot print cosmetics bag for cult Japanese brand Shu Uemura.

For his spring 2015 collection, he built on the momentum, again emphasizing offbeat prints and couture-inspired volumes with a sporty twist.

The inspiration: "The transition of a girl into a successful career woman," the designer said. Cohen's inspiration board was a collage of lived-in denim—frayed, acid washed, studded and written-on swatches from shorts and miniskirts sourced at thrift stores around town. The collage was the basis for a patchwork denim print used on an elegant draped-back blouse, a fit 'n' flare dress, a pencil skirt and scarfy trench coat that are the heart and soul of the collection titled "Culture Clash."

The look: Subversive elegance, as he calls it. In other words, sophisticated but a little bit deliciously lowbrow too.

Key pieces: Multilayered white shirt dress with structured underskirt, and kaleidoscope detail; deconstructed blue patchwork tweed miniskirt and elongated blazer; stretch leather "denim blue" biker shorts and blazer; pink leopard brushstroke print neoprene cocktail dress; gold graffiti hand-painted cocktail dress; "erotic flamingo print" ponte jersey shift dress (yes, you read that right; the print features the leggy pink birds in all manner of compromising positions); printed T-shirts to wear with tweed sweat pants.

The verdict:

Now that he’s filled in some missing categories (knitwear, and more casual everyday pieces, among them) Cohen and his collection are really coming along. His prints have a handmade charm and sly irreverence, so that they still feel fresh, even though fashion has been saturated with prints for several seasons now. A Kama Sutra for wild fowl? Wicked, yes, but on an elegant skirt and top, also wearable.