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Skingraft designer Jonny Cota went from studying physiology to stilt walking—yes, in a circus—to designing some of fashion's most coveted leather jackets. Cota was inspired to move to LA and start his own clothing line after spending time traveling all over the world as a circus performer who also made costumes for the show. "The costumes that we were making were very dark and very theatrical," he explained. "If you look at our first show it was leather, Victorian, gowns. Everything was really big because we were used to the stage."
Cota's business partner, his brother Chris, handles the company's business matters, leaving the designer to focus solely on the creative end. His use of leather and neutral colors has become a trademark for the brand and his ability to "manhandle" the difficult material makes him stand out as one of the best in the business. "If you told me to make a T-shirt, it would be a disaster," he laughed.
Between his trips to the Skingraft factory in Bali, we managed to sneak a quick juice date with the recently-engaged designer. At Sustain Juicery, we talked mermaids, Lindsay Lohan and his opinions on phone calls.
What are you drinking today?
"I am drinking 'The Revival.' It's a green juice with cayenne pepper. I'm on my way to revival!"
What is your most prized possession?
"My dog, she's a little pit bull. Her name's Olive and she's black?Black Olive. Everyone thinks she's a puppy but she's three years old, she just never grew out of being a puppy. It's what I miss most when I'm in Bali, besides my partner."
Fast food or a five-star?
"Five-star restaurant, though I wish I could say 'fast food.'"
If you were going to have a biography written about you, what would the title be?
"The Accidental Happy Goth, because the brand is so dark and comes from a dark place and that's how I want to design but I'm a disgustingly chipper person. But when we're working on the collection I'm like 'It has to be dark, make it more scary!'"
Black or White?
If you had to listen to one song on repeat for 24 hours, what would it be?
"Antony and the Johnsons, there's a song called 'Hope There's Someone' and I do listen to it over and over and over."
Describe your typical Thursday night.
"Work late, after-work drinks, go home, dinner with boyfriend, dog moment, work, work, work, go to bed."
Phone call or email?
"Email. Ugh, I just got nervous when you said 'phone call.'"
What's your most embarrassing habit?
"My most embarrassing habit is playing with my stretched ear and then smelling it?I don't know why, it's like a thing, smelling my stretched earhole. It's so gross."
Pound the pavement or sleep under the stars?
"Sleep under the stars."
If you could have a super power, what would it be?
"There's a mermaid moment in me. Not to be a mermaid, but when I was younger and kids wanted to fly, I always wanted mermaid powers, like the ability to go under water for long amounts of time without breathing. Mer-man."
Who's the last person you had dinner with?
"My boyfriend?my fiancé."
What advice would you give Lindsay Lohan?
"So many of these celebrities, these kids, these LA people, the ones that are in the tabloids?they get so much shit. I wanna shake some of them and say 'you're a mess?it's okay! You have a cult following because you're a mess?who cares! Make money from it. You are who you are. Let it be. Own it.'"
What is one trend you can't wait to see die?
"Oh there's no many. Slouchy boots. I hate the slouchy boot, FIDM look. Downtown there's always the girl in the slouchy boots and a big asymmetrical knit with her sketchpad. It drives me bonkers."
What has been your career highlight?
"Probably our first LA Fashion Week Show at the LA Theater. We had just opened our store and the show was massive. We had no idea how many people were going to show up. It was so stressful, I remember being backstage halfway through it just balling?just stress, stress, stress. Then it was over and we walked out, I just didn't realize how many people were there! There were people standing in the aisles it was so packed. It was one of the highlights of my life. It changed the course of our company."
What is one piece someone could add to their outfit to edge up their look?
"It might be a no-brainer answer for me but definitely a leather jacket, no matter what. You could be wearing sweats and a leather jacket and all of the sudden you're cool and you put a little effort into it. Everyone should have a leather jacket."
Shop Skingraft online or at retailers like Beige, Church, Kitson, H. Lorenzo and KIN.
· Skingraft [Official Site]
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