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Conscious Luxury and the necessity of Invention in High Fashion

Jonathan Cohen
9:00 am, April 20th (EST)
Expert Guest

Jonathan Cohen

Creative Director and Founder

With parents from Mexico and a San Diego upbringing, Jonathan Cohen was a product of the cultural heritage he was exposed to growing up. In High School, he would see the surfers changing out of their wet suits into their school outfits with only the ease and laid-back nature that one from a beach town could. With parents originating from Mexico, he was surrounded by strong willed individuals who loved to immerse themselves in the colors and textiles reminiscent of their childhood. Eventually, when Cohen moved to New York City, the modernity of Manhattan and the on-the-go fluidity of the city shaped his design direction and inspiration – which eventually shaped the Jonathan Cohen woman. The Mexican prints and patterns and colors, the laid-back ease of the San Diego surf culture and the modern city approach have manifested into what the brand has become.


Cohen met business partner Sarah Leff while attending Parsons School of Design. Together, they formally launched Jonathan Cohen in 2011. After he received much recognition and encouragement from his peers and teachers for his senior thesis, he left New York and spent a year in California, where he continued to build upon his senior thesis by creating new pieces and silhouettes aligned with his final school project. He came back to New York City, connected with Leff, and had his thesis (along with those new items he created while on the West Coast) photographed into a re-interpreted look book. Together, they selected a group of editors and stores and sent out their materials to gain market reaction. The attention was organic and began to build slowly, and as the conversations started to evolve, so did the definition of who the Jonathan Cohen is. She’s an artistic female who values the story of the brand and the pillars in which it is built upon. She’s a multi-dimensional woman who cannot be defined by a single quality….and those descriptors are constantly evolving. She is someone who has many facets which help to shape her sense of self and awareness. She’s a woman who values quality over quantity, values the craftsmanship that goes into creating her garments and when she spends money on a piece, she wants to make sure when she puts it on, she feels both unique and special.


Jonathan placed runner-up in CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund and went on to partake in the CFDA Lexus Sustainability Residency. 

Expert Guest
Masterclass Intro


For our final Master Talks from our Executive Education in Sustainable Fashion Spring 2020 series, Simon Collins speaks with Jonathan Cohen - Creative Director and Founder about his journey from Parsons to becoming a successful designer. Jonathan shares how he is always pushing himself to understand his purpose and together with business partner Sarah Leff, how they have developed a conscious and responsible luxury brand. How they regenerate past seasons’ leftover fabrics and factories scraps to create their direct to consumer business. Jonathan discusses how his team are constantly adapting and questioning the waste that they create from the paper they sketch on to the clothes they make.

Key Takeaways

“As a designer I am always pushing myself to understand what is my purpose, why am I putting out more product, what am I doing to contribute to the world”

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