Skingraft Designer Jonny Cota Talks New York Store Opening and His Dream Celebrity Client

We chat with the designer on whats new from the cult brand.

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Image via Complex Original
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It's hard to talk about the L.A. fashion scene without mentioningSkingraft, and now with the May 7 opening of its first New York City store and plans to show during New York Fashion Week in September, designer Jonny Cota has expansion on his mind. The 29-year-old San Francisco Bay native started off as a stilt walker and costume designer for the circus, which is pretty fitting seeing as though the fashion industry is a circus all its own. Check out our exclusive interview with the designer below.

Your Los Angeles Flagship store is a shopping destination for the fashion flock when they are on the West Coast. What was the idea behind opening in New York, and why now?

It has always been my dream to open a store in NYC and the response to our L.A. flagship store has been so exciting for the past few years that we were ready for a new challenge and ready to create a new homebase on the east coast.  

The shop will be in the Nolita area of Soho, a little ways away from the main drag. Was there a reason to place the store away from the madness?
I have always loved Nolita and last year I was standing on Prince street and I had this overwhelming, almost psychedelic, moment of visualizing a future Skingraft store on that block and one year later, we are finally sinking our teeth in.  The madness of central Soho isn't really my scene and I appreciate the smaller, more independent, boutiques in the Nolita area more than the massive retailers along Broadway.  

As a brand, Skingraft has always supported and collaborated with local artists and talent in Los Angeles. Do you plan to do the same in New York?
Yes. One of the most exciting things for me as a designer is to collaborate with other artists that I admire. We have worked with visual artists, performance artists, video and media artists, and other designer collaborators to fully express the Skingraft vision in Los Angeles and I am excited to start building a new tribe of collaborators in New York.  

You have a huge celebrity following from A$AP Rocky and Rihanna to Tyson Chandler. How does it feel to have your brand associated with people who have such a strong connection to fashion? And who would you love to dress or work with?
Skingraft—and my entire life, essentially—is heavily inspired by music and the subcultures surrounding it. It feels very gratifying to see fashion-loving musicians and other artists wearing the collection because it creates this cool circle where we are inspired by music and then the products of our inspiration are worn and appreciated by some of the original influencers. In a way, it's like little childhood dreams of dressing musicians being fulfilled constantly. I would love to dress Grace Jones, she is the ultimate graceful freak in my book.

The Fall '13 Collection was one of my favorites to date. There seemed to be more pieces than usual, and lots of layering. What was the inspiration behind the collection? Is this a directional move for the brand?
Each collection is bigger than the last. And each season, I try to diversify and expand the collection more and more. This fall, we are launching a shoe collection for women and a sneaker collaboration for men along with a wider range of accessories from scarves and backpacks to knit hats and leather gloves. Next spring, we are launching Skingraft sunglasses and a small jewelry collection. The Fall '13 collection was inspired by the idea of a new grunge era and an updated more-refined punk rock future. I was mixing grunge aesthetics with gothy streetwear silhouettes to create an evolved look for Skingraft while still staying true to our brand.  

What can we expect from the opening? And you are opening on May 7, and the address is 7 Prince St—is that a coincidence, or does the number seven have significance to you or the brand?
We open on May 7 at 7 Prince St. and the numbers are definitely of significance. I am very sensitive to numerology and I am intuitive and almost witchy when it comes to numbers, symbols, and their meanings so, there are no coincidences. Seven, to me, means creative expression, sense of self, and a strong path forward.  
Skingraft opens officially on May 7 in New York City and is located at 7 Prince Street. And for the entire month of May, the store will be playing a 3-D fashion video called "Dark Light Circles," a collaboration with Motivated Media and 3d Tribe. 

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