At a Jonathan Cohen appointment, a pair of party pants made from rainbow-bright fabric paillettes practically shimmied off the rack. Cohen makes pretty dresses, often in floral prints that he paints himself. His aesthetic leans exuberant, but the pants stood out, not least of all because the fabric paillettes were made using scraps from prior collections.
The pandemic forced designers at all levels of the business to rethink their strategies. Cohen and his partner, Sarah Leff, gave up the runway and opted to focus on trunk shows, his direct-to-consumer e-commerce site, and a custom-made business instead. There’s also a Madison Avenue temporary pop-up coming next month.
Additionally, Cohen redoubled his efforts around sustainability. An internal audit revealed that he was losing tens of thousands of dollars on fabric that ended up on the cutting-room floor—that’s tens of thousands of dollars per dress style. Now he’s putting those materials to work on those party pants and a matching slip dress, as well as on contrast linings that elevate his tailoring and as fabric-covered stone appliqués on an evening dress. He also pointed out that all of the solid-colored pieces in the collection are made from deadstock supplies.
“In March 2020 we had about 90 rolls of fabric leftover, and I think we’re down to less than 15 at this point,” he said. “We keep finding new opportunities to take our waste and make it purposeful.” Cohen is a small business; what if large global companies followed suit?
His other news for fall revolves around silhouette and print. There’s an easy-chic new pajama set and a playful new photo print of dahlias. Fun fact: Cohen and photographer Spencer Ostrander used hand sanitizer, of all things, to accentuate the dahlias’ reflections. Now that’s resourceful.