NYFW: Designer Keeps Low Profile to Generate Buzz

New York Fashion Week is a time in the industry for designers to show off their best. But if no one sees their clothing, careers can go from sizzle to stall – so, talented artisans work themselves into a frenzy vying for a space and sponsor to help them present their work. The goal is to wow the press, impress the editors, and seduce the buyers.

But one emerging designer is taking a risk he hopes will pay off. Spending more money on samples than spectacle, Jonathan Cohen is counting on his collection to sell itself.

A rising star and Parsons grad, Cohen, whose parents are Mexican, has sharpened his needles with the best of them. He’s interned with Oscar de la Renta, Doo Ri-Chung, Ashleigh Verrier, and famed stylist of Sex In The City, Patricia Field.

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When he presented his first collection last year during New York Fashion Week at the Flag Art gallery in Chelsea, he was named “the one to watch” by Harper’s Bazaar, claimed the attention Women’s Wear Daily, and was featured in New York Magazine—unprecedented for someone no one knew.

“I was very surprised at the attention we got.  But even though we had great success last season with the show, this year, we’ve chosen an alternative route to the traditional presentation or runway show,” he said. “I will meet privately with buyers, editors, and the press to walk them through the line. We’ll be renting a space in SoHo for the month of February. We’ll have models here for appointments, and I’m looking forward to meeting with anyone and everyone one-on-one.”

He said people need time to take in the collection, and by shunning Fashion Week, he can accommodate schedules.

“Showing my clothing this way gives people an idea of what it looks like hanging on the racks in stores—there is such a thing as “hanger appeal,” he said. “And the calm atmosphere we’ve created fits with the relaxed nature of our clothes.”

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Offering a showroom visit is not exactly a revolutionary concept. Many designers show their clothing this way. But more often than not, designers feel they have to do both a show and a showroom visit—especially for a virtual unknown. Designers who expect important folks to come to them usually already have an established brand.

Cohen describes his Fall 2012 line as a mix of solids and prints fabricated in custom luxury cashmeres in reds, grays, and aubergines. Ponte knit skirts with organza details, printed jersey tee shirts, silk and chiffon blouses, and camisole inspired gowns.  He will offer a 32-piece collection vs. his usual 12.

“I’m really excited about the prints that are included. The textiles were inspired by the work of Hungarian abstract artist Judit Reigl,” Cohen said. “I saw her paintings in the Tate Museum, only to discover a gallery that carries her work three blocks from my apartment. I knew it was meant to be.”

He’s also currently collaborating with a luxury boutique hotel in Park City Utah called the Washington School House.  He’s designed a line of custom scarves in five different styles to be carried in the hotel gift shop. And he recently presented his spring collection in the very stylish concept store Common People, located in Mexico City—a store many say reminds them of the tre chic Parisian boutique, Colette.

Cohen says he feels the Internet has turned the season of Fashion Week into a furor for designers. All they want, he said, is instant hype.

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“Every year, there are more and more shows and presentations. Doing a show on such a scale takes an army,” Cohen said. “We’re just a team of two. I respect the process. It’s not just about money.”

He said he expects his product to standout as unique no matter if it’s presented on a runway or not.

“I have my whole career to do a big show,” Cohen said. “Even with all the great press we’ve had, we still have a long way to go.”

Rebekah Sager is a freelance writer.

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