August 09, 2021
Author: Emily Farra
See in: Vogue Magazine
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Jonathan Cohen hasn’t wasted a scrap of fabric in years. From entire rolls of leftover textiles to the tiny bits left on the factory floor, it all gets repurposed into pillows, patchwork dresses, brooches, scrunchies, face masks, and totes as part of his upcycled, one-of-a-kind Studio Collection. Today, he’s adding an exciting new category to the list: jewelry.
Observant Vogue Runway users might have noticed the bubble-like necklaces in his fall 2021 collection: In some looks, stacks of beads were layered around the neck, while others featured extra-long strands looped over the torso like delicate harnesses. Upon closer inspection, each one was tightly wrapped with the same materials as the clothes: graphic dotted silks, saffron viscoses, abstract florals. In lieu of clasps, the necklaces fasten with an adjustable ribbon tie—a detail found on many of Cohen’s dresses—and were handmade by refugee and immigrant women in the United States through a partnership with Refugee Artisan Initiative.
“We always try to come up with new ways to work with our fabric remnants,” Cohen says. “While we were styling the new collection, we were talking to our stylist Austen Turner about making accessories for the shoot, and we landed on the idea of covered beads. They ended up becoming a major part of the collection and added something so special—people immediately reached out to us to ask about purchasing them.”
Layered up with Cohen’s vivid gowns, the necklaces lend a touch of artsy texture, but they’ll also appeal to minimalists looking to add a flash of color to their T-shirts and jeans. That they support the Refugee Artisan Initiative’s mission to help women gain confidence and financial independence is all the more reason to experiment with a strand or two. “We speak about sustainability in various ways, but people often ignore the fact that workers are part of the issue as well,” Cohen says. “It’s important to not only know where your clothes are coming from but who is making them. To be able to speak to the people who are making the pieces and hear their stories is truly special.”
Cohen was introduced to RAI through the non-profit Nest, which supports makers in the U.S. and connect them with brands and designers. “During the pandemic, it became more important to me than ever to support handicrafts and artisans,” Cohen adds. “It’s the reason why organizations such as Nest and RAI are so important; they create [connections] to the artisans when you can’t travel. This is essential and creates beautiful results.”
The Jonathan Cohen x Refugee Artisan Initiative necklaces are available exclusively on his website, with prices starting at $140. Shop the full collection below, and act fast—there’s a limited supply of each.