the up and comers: skingraft

We recently had an appointment with the folks behind Skingraft to view their Spring 2011 collection and were wowed by where they are taking the line. Their fingerless leather gloves and leather jackets have been a hit this season and they’ve been a natural fit in our lineup. (The leather gloves have been sold out for some time now but should be making their way back soon.) after the buying appointment, we recently had a chance to ask one of the designers a few questions – read below to get to know skingraft.

OAK: can you briefly introduce yourself?
Jonny Cota: I am Jonny Cota, 27 years old, and together with my brother Christopher, we are Skingraft. We are from the San Francisco bay area but currently call Los Angeles our home, our stomping ground, our fortress. We love pitbulls and tequila. I studied journalism in college, graduated early and joined the circus the following day. While touring with the circus I discovered my love for costumery and began designing elaborate costumes and headpieces. Soon after, I moved to Los Angeles and started Skingraft.

OAK: what is the concept of your brand and why did you start it?
JC: We started Skingraft as an experiment in performance art-based costumery. I had no formal training in design so there were absolutely no rules. The first day of Skingraft was the first day that I used an industrial sewing machine, finally putting away my plastic k-mart sewing machine from high school. Somehow the design process happened organically and smooth and our aesthetic was strong and very exact. It was post-apocolyptic, it was punk rock, it was filled with fantasy and limitlessness. Skingraft began as a costume house and quickly evolved from costumery into fashion as we focused more and more of designing seasonally. My design aesthetic evolves season to season but there always remains a primal darkness and romanticism in everything I create. No matter how “ready-to-wear” any of our designs may become, they always have a nod to something fantastical.

OAK: what, or when, was your first big break?
JC: Our most significant “big break” happened in the spring of 2009 when we were walking from our design studio to lunch and passed a beautiful storefront for lease in the historic core of downtown Los Angeles. We knew that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take Skingraft to the next level so we leased the space and opened our flagship store. Within a week the store was receiving a lot of attention and we were immediately invited to present at Los Angeles fashion week. Our runway show received rave reviews in the press and combined with our new retail presence downtown, Skingraft solidified a much stronger and more public position in the LA fashion scene.

OAK: what’s your favorite piece from the line that we’re carrying? do you have any styling tips for that piece or others in the collection, for our readers?
JC: My favorite Skingraft item that Oak carries this season is the black armor jacket for women. I am obsessed with Joan of Arc and different forms of body armor so the jacket’s articulated hips, pleated rib cage and armored shoulders really sing to me. I love the jacket zipped up tight like armor but am always impressed at how good it looks unzipped and worn casually over a simple knit top.

OAK: what are the challenges faced by up and coming designers in los angeles? does being in l.a. influence the direction of your line? since you have a retail store as well, can you comment on how, if at all, that factors into your experience?
JC: Los Angeles is dominated by a style that is very casual and sunny, which is kind of the opposite of Skingraft’s moody darkness. In some ways this difference makes me feel like we are constantly struggling to swim upstream, against the tides. I am realizing now, more and more, that this difference in aesthetic has given Skingraft an amazing platform in which to stand out amongst the rest. Los Angeles also has an intense culture of celebrity, which I am not a huge fan of, but has definitely benefited our brand and our store as the collection has attracted a number of musicians and tv shows. This influences me to make sure and design at least one or two pieces each season that will be suitable for stage or film.

OAK: what’s next for you all and the brand?
JC: We love New York and would like to spend more time there. Being stocked at Oak has excited us more about the energy of New York fashion and we would love to participate more, whether that be at fashion week or with a private event. We are also working on a lower priced capsule collection to be sold exclusively at our store in Los Angeles. We hope that the collection receives a positive response so we can expand it and offer the collection to other retailers. One day we will also take a vacation, or at least a day off, and it will be glorious!

OAK: anything else you’d like to say?
JC: Support and participate in art! So many artists have contributed to any designed garment we ever wear. From the designer who draped the garment to the musicians and film makers who inspired them to do so, to the retailers who curate and unify creative expressions into a cohesive selection, everyone is working together if we know it or not. Participate.

click here to shop the collection. please note that some of the collection is only available at our bond st. location. for purchase inquiries, please call +1 212 677 1293.

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