Posted on 23 March 2011.
By Pablo Avion | Facebook | Twitter
IFDaily: First of all, I love you guys’ designs. “Retro future” is the term that springs to mind for some of it. Please tell me about this picture.
I can’t get enough of this wide-brimmed 1940s-style hat in fuzzy, futuristic material and synthetic emu-type … what is that? A collar? Shoulder ornament?
What is this, what’s the material, where could I buy it (if I was a woman … or a more-daring man). How much does it cost? What’s the name of the collection?
JC: This photo is from our recent presentation at LA Fashion Week. The collection was sort of inspired by the grace of death and dying and the idea that when we die we can live forever in whatever vision we make of ourselves. My vision for these models was to create them as they dark spirits from some other planet and time. The head piece was made by my good friend and longtime collaborator Rick Gradone. He used human and synthetic hair that he painstakingly coated in layers of latex to create something otherworldly and in my opinion incredibly unique and fashion forward. The head piece is complimenting the Skingraft jacket with giant exaggerated shoulders covered in goat and human hair.
IFDaily: Okay now on to picture 2.
Photo: Apparel News
To me this is like Gone With the Wind meets Star Wars. It’s odd for me to be gushing like this about women’s fashions, simply because I usually reserve my intense spasticity for men’s stuff I probably can’t afford. What’s this called? What’s the inspiration / story behind this look?
JC: Though Skingraft primarily focuses on designing ready-to-wear collections, we have always invested a lot of time into making one-of-a-kind ornate garments like the one in this photo. This was the finale piece for our spring 2011. The entire show was inspired by African folklore and the concept of ancestry. The oversized hood and armored hips and shoulders was my take on an African warrior-type but coupled with the flowing silk skirt I believe the look became much softer and feminine while still maintaining its power.
IFDaily: It’s hard for me to see your designs without thinking of Philip K. Dick (who wrote the book that became Bladerunner, among many other surreal science fiction classics, for anyone unfamiliar). Or hear a song by Daft Punk. Where do you get your inspiration? Do movies, music or books play a part?
JC: I pull my inspiration from everywhere but there are definitely some iconic movies from the past that have burned lasting images in my memory such as Dune, Bladerunner, Mad Max, and Fifth Element. Ideas of future, apocolypse, and re-imagining how we dress and relate to a different world are always reoccurring in the Skingraft aesthetic. Also music is a huge inspiration to me. I have always been very active and social in nightlife settings so everything from electronic music to punk rock has had a deep impact on the way I imagine Skingraft.
IFDaily: You’ve done quite well in the celebrity arena (understandably, given the theatricality of your garments). (Yes, “theatricality” is a word: I just looked it up and I’m surprised myself.) More recently I see you have Britney Spears, for example, wearing a Skingraft graffiti jacket and shorts in the “Hold it Against Me Video.” How did that come about? Do you ever design looks for celebrities by request, or do they get wind of your looks, somehow?
JC: Being based in Los Angeles has granted us many great opportunities to work closely with celebrities and interesting projects. For the Britney video, we were asked to especially design pieces for Britney that would help recreate her image to fit with the future aesthetic of the video. Bea Akerlund was the stylist for that video and she had worked with us through the Black Eyed Peas and other musicians, so she came to us directly because she felt that we would be good candidates to create a rock-n-roll futuristic look for Britney.
IFDaily: Adam Lambert came to the show at CONCEPT LA during LA Fashion Week, and apparently has been a Skingraft fan / friend going on a couple of years, at least. How did that come about?
JC: Adam was actually one of the first new friends I made when I moved to Los Angeles 6 years ago. We met in the kinda freaky club scene in LA and have known each other for years. It has been such a great experience to watch him explode into worldwide fame because he is damn talented. It is also convenient and lucky that our aesthetics are very similar so he has come to us for a number of custom pieces during his time on American Idol and then later on his national tour.
IFDaily: Skingraft is both Jonny Cota (designer) and Chris Cota (brand manager). Does Chris ever share design thoughts, and do you ever get involved in marketing the brand? Or are you happy keeping duties separate?
JC: We both crossover a lot. I am very very specific about how I want the brand to by presented and perceived in the public so I contribute a lot to the “voice” of Skingraft and Chris helps maintain that voice and grow the brand. I design the collection but I love having Chris’ opinion on all the designs because he comes from a more marketable and mainstream point of view and he will ask me important questions like “do we really need to produce perforated leather pants that show everything? I mean, is anyone going to buy this.” He brings me back to earth a lot and I think together we really make a great team.
IFDaily: Anything else you’d like to tell us? For example, any fun personal trips coming up, events or other news related to the brand?
JC: We have some really exciting things coming up for the brand this year that I can’t really talk about yet but it involves everything from more celebrity projects to designing a lower priced sub-label. Definitely keep an ear out because we will be making some big announcements this summer.
IFDaily: Thanks, can’t wait!
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