Starting his career at Parson’s School for design and later working as an apprentice to Ashleigh Verrier and Oscar de la Renta, Jonathan Cohen has attained an impressive resume. Working with many renowned designers, he has managed to win over the fashion world with his carefully crafted designs. He is an expert when it comes to creating clothing that actually fits women throughout all walks of life. From the surfer girl to the chic woman on the go, he understands that all woman want to look beautiful and feel confident.
Born and raised in his hometown of San Diego, California, Cohen’s parents are of Mexican descent and he often draws inspiration from his heritage along with artistic influences such as music and architecture. Read on as Cohen shed’s some light on his multi-faceted career and gives us his best advice for Making it in Manhattan.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in fashion?
The first time I really remember being excited about fashion was when I saw Madonna wearing Gaultier’s cone bra on MTV. I thought it was amazing that a piece of clothing could cause such a sensation around the world. Even though I was around 6 or 7, I just remember having a strong sensation that one-day I would want to create moments like that.
2. What college did you attend and what did you study?
Parsons. I studied Fashion Design.
3. When did you land your first internship and what was the most valuable thing you learned from this experience?
I got my first internship with a young designer named Ashleigh Verrier, within the first few weeks of moving to NYC and starting college. She had just graduated from Parsons. Since it was a start up, I really was able to be involved in all aspect. From sketching to production, it was all hands on deck and was beyond exciting. The internship really gave me a broad sense of what the industry entails. Everyday became a valuable lesson; I felt like a sponge and wanted to know about everything. Luckily, Ashleigh and her business partner were so great to me and really let me be involved.
4. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone about to begin a summer internship?
I think internships are so important. School is amazing, but you really get to see immediately what is happening in the industry from your internships. Also, do not have an attitude. Be open to doing anything that is asked (within reason) you can learn something from every experience, even if you don’t see the value in it at the time.
Be early to everything! Punctuality is so important. It’s the first impression people have of you. And in such a competitive field, where everyone is so talented, the little things start to set you apart from your competitors.
5. Who have been your biggest mentors in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
There are so many, but I always learn so much from our storeowners and the staff that works in them. They are at the pulse of what is going on to be honest. They are the ones with the clients on a daily basis. The information they give you is priceless. It really is what is going on in fashion right NOW, and always for that matter. Susan Foslien, Dawn and Denise (A’Maree’s), Ikram Goldman, Brian Bolke, and the many other storeowners have been instrumental in the growth of the business and me as a designer.
6. What was your first job out of college, and how did you land that position?
My first job was working for Patricia Field as a freelance costume designer for Ugly Betty and Sex and the City. A teacher from school set me up on the interview. It was the best job coming out of college. It was so fun and carefree. I was kind of in shock I was getting paid to do the things I was doing. It was amazing.
7. What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?
Starting out can be overwhelming and it’s a lot to process. I have no regrets because it has gotten to me where I am both as a business owner and a person. I do think it’s important sometimes to take a step back and really celebrate those big moments that happen. There is so much rejection and it can be tough, that sometimes you let the good moments pass by without really processing them because you are constantly thinking of how to take that moment and capitalize on it. That determination is what drives me, but I have also learned to stop for a second and enjoy it. Or else, what is the point.
8. What is one thing you look for interviewing a potential candidate for your company?
Passion and enthusiasm. I can spot it instantly. This is such a hard industry that if you don’t really love it, it just won’t work. Also an important aspect to remember is your resume. Keep in mind we all receive so many, so make sure it stands out. Make it beautiful to read both in design and content. It is the first time opportunity you have to present your experience and presentation skills to a company so make sure it stands out, but make sure it is easy to read and digest. It’s a very nice challenge.
9. If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career what would it be?
CHILL OUT! YOU ARE GOING TO BE OK!
10. What is your favorite part about being a designer?
I love it all from design to business aspect. I am so lucky to do what I love, and I don’t take that for granted ever.
11. The fashion industry has changed so much in the past few years, what’s the best advice you would give for staying ahead of the curve?
Follow your gut and stay focused on your vision. Don’t look at what others are doing. Everyone has his or her own path. This is your story and that is different from everyone around you. That is your strength.
12. What was your biggest fear when going out and starting your own line?
Rejection. Which we have faced plenty of, so you just have to overcome it. In the end rejection went from being my biggest fear to what has driven me the most. Overcoming those obstacles has been so important in my growth process.
13. Where do you go for inspiration when trying to design a new collection?
It's so different for every season, it can really come from anything. I always do start though by talking to my customers and the woman I value around me. I am always curious on where their heads are at in their lives and what they are feeling/desiring.
14. Where do you hope to see your brand in the future?
We have always maintained a steady growth. I know we have the potential to be a global brand and hit every category from accessories to home wear while maintaining our luxury standpoint, which is important to us. That being said, I know this should not happen overnight. Slow and steady.
15. There’s so much pressure for designers to come out with their greatest collection season after season. What advice would you give to young designers just starting out and hoping to make it in the industry?
Don’t listen to those voices. That is a pressure you cannot put on yourself or you will go crazy. Focus on being an individual and on your own point of view. That will naturally set you apart from your competitors. Surround yourself with people you trust and that are honest with you. Take everything seriously, but don’t be scared to have fun!
Have a question or just want to say hey? Shoot me an email.