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Global Designer Spotlight: Skingraft from Los Angeles, California


 

 

 

The view of L.A.’s alternative label, Skingraft during STYLE Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2012. 

 

By: Sonia Lowe

Toronto, Canada

 

Think Californian fashion. Imagine illustrious brands few can afford, hip-hugging bell bottoms, vintage fringe. Clogs. Think floral and free love. The odd hemp bracelet, done-to-death peace signs, beach hair and prescribed numbness. A sunny, style utopia.

 

But don’t think that’s all.

 

After something like six L.A. fashion seasons—and more than a few honest moments—I can say this: Everything has a dark side. An underbelly. Even Golden States go in and out of style.

 

Skingraft Fall/Winter 2012

Skingraft Fall/Winter 2012

 

In this case, style polarity is defined by geography. On one end, you cruise for days through glorious, coastal beach towns. You witness sun rays melt oceans into liquid diamond. Drive thirty four minutes inland, past Hollywood subcultures and sex-tapes, and you’re downtown. L.A.

 

Take the corner on 4th and Spring Street and you arrive at Skingraft.

 

The flag ship store, with a witchy showcase of Frankensteinen-cut leather, held most-talked-about-runway-show status, on day three of STYLE Fashion week. Citing triumph, after a prelude of cheerful, sorbet jeans fluffed the ramp before their collection had a go.

 

Where other somber, street-style designers might cringe when you stuff their label in the goth pocket, Skin Graft’s creative concoctionist, Jonny Cota owns the mood.

 

Skingraft's Jonny Cota

Skingraft's Jonny Cota

 

 

“I was super goth as a kid in high school so it’s a word that’s heartwarming to me. One of my relatives said, ‘Oh he’s just going through a faze. I remember being so pissed at her.”

 

It all started with designing costumes for performance art. Today, Jonny thinks dark fashion is an aesthetic that fits life style. It’s fine for work. Fine for play. Any day. Every day. He’s evolving it. And embracing his trajectory towards New Goth.

 

 

Skingraft Fall/Winter 2012

Skingraft Fall/Winter 2012

 

“In the 90’s, kids were getting inspired by purchased street style and I think that new goth expands the idea that, it’s not just black, maybe it’s grey, maybe it’s white. It’s not this teenage rebellion kind of thing. It’s more high-end, it’s adult.”

 

When stigmas die hard, Jonny curbs the blow by marrying performance art with ready-to-wear, finding inspiration between theatre and street.

 

“It’s a constant battle. A constant conversation inside myself where to draw the line. Each season my inspiration is something very, very serious, like resurrection and all these heavy ideas. This time, I was in a much lighter mood. For the first time in my life I allowed myself to really listen to and love pop music, top forty, hip hop. Things that someone with an alternative fashion sense keeps away from. I let it seep in and thought this collection is going to lose the punk rock and we’re going to bring hoods and oversized shapes and see where that goes. So there was this inspiration of nightlife and hedonism and celebration and reckless abandonment.”

 

Skingraft Fall/Winter 2012

Skingraft Fall/Winter 2012

 

On the outside, maybe. But behind the scenes Jonny contains his alternative vision in a sea of pop culture. A challenge most designers face when expanding from niche to commercial markets, is doing so without the expense of lost creativity.

 

“We finish the show with a few fantasy-based gowns, that we designers do. It takes hundred of hours and its totally ridiculous and doesn’t make any sense financially, but I think it makes perfect sense to capture that fantasy and push our imagination past what we are marketing as a collection.”

 

Skingraft Fall/Winter 2012

Skingraft Fall/Winter 2012

 

When essence is questioned, leopard fabric won’t change its spots. But when it comes to fashion perspective and visibility, you won’t see the light, unless you know the dark.

 

Jonny agrees.

 

“I feel like our core aesthetic has maintained a common thread and that’s dark, city, and a bit of fantasy inside of it, and each season no matter where my inspiration goes, that’s always going to be Skin Graft.”

 

Photography by Saeed Zargham

Special thanks to STYLE Fashion Week Co-Founders,

Karim Atash & Veronica Welch, of Bubblefish Media



*Sonia is a freelance writer, art and fashion enthusiast. She frequents Hollywood & Toronto as a writer/producer for television and film projects. 

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