Post-Apocalyptic Couture Streetwear Brand Skin.Graft.Designs. Premieres Otherworldly Runway Show at Pool Trade Show Offices Providing Inspiration from the Alchemy of Style, Textures, Art, + Fantasy

Story by Kathleen Gasperini
Photos by Tom Wallace
Label Networks TV by AJ Jackson
Camera by Masaki Miyagawa

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Jonathan Cota and Cassidy Haley are artists who give life to characters and tell stories with fashion in an invented post-apocalyptic world through their collection called Skin.Graft.Designs. Their debut June 9th in Silverlake, CA, hosted at the Pool Trade Show offices offered a mix of couture streetwear fashion representing stories of the past combined with the future, but played out in the present. The people at Pool, particularly show director Mindy Wiener, recognized the talent of Jonathan and Cassidy some time ago and promised that when they had a complete ready-to-wear line, Pool would offer the location and promotion to launch their catalystic collection. In addition, we can expect to see Skin.Graft.Designs. as the showcased brand at the upcoming Pool Trade Show, August 27-29th in Las Vegas.

The designers’ stories tell how such high-end couture mixed with underground streetwear creations manifested: Jonathan was a DJ and a circus performer in Northern California, while Cassidy was a singer in a rock band and a circus performer in Los Angeles. Both were creating their own costumes which eventually transformed into their own storybook lifestyles which they took to the next level when meeting in September of 02005 and collaborated on their own label. Borrowing ideas from their tribal circus roots, the state of the world today, and what they hope to be an inventive future, Cassidy and Jonathan created pieces that look post-apocalyptic with Blade Runner-esque vision, even Tank Girl aesthetics, and combined other elements such as Victorian, pirate, Aeon Flux, nature, and outlaw cowboy, resulting in an incredibly romantic high-end streetwear collection. In the details include metal studs and embellishments of thrashed leather, sewn scraps to create ruffles and layers, painted, antique canvases framed on the back of jackets like a storyboard, and a heavy assortment of corsetry—even in the sleeves—resulting in the invention of a style that could be the look of things to come.  

 
 

Skin.Graft.Designs. is probably most known for their creative leather jackets and pants, and their newly famous holster purses either in the vest-version, garter-bags worn like Lara Croft on one’s thighs, or saddle bag styles. However in their full collection, we saw white leather chaps in layers of flowing pieces, vests, bustle skirts, women’s jackets with corseted backs and sleeves, and full gowns with hoop skirts, including gowns in white leather and cloth, gold metallic, and grey Gothic bride (who surprised the audience and photographers by giving her bustle a shake that released a cloud of baby powder on nearby observers).

In an interview with Label Networks, Cassidy described their collection as “recreating our dream world with our characters. We’re inspired by story books and fairy tales and dreams of the future.” The results, as Jonathan put it, “started with us taking small pieces of leather and sewing them together, then creating thrashed, painted pieces and refining them and making them beautiful.” What was also unique about this particular runway show is that the models were not your typical fare. “We make specific pieces for each model—they are our muses,” explained Jonathan. “We do not use traditional modeling agencies, because we are looking for women that have meaning and can transform to characters.”

The evening also provided more than Skin.Graft.Design.’s debut including models adorned with jewelry, headpieces, and body harnesses by Marisa Youlden Designs that provided the Titania Queen of the Faeries qualities enhancing the Skin.Graft.Designs. version of a post-apocalyptic Midsummer Night’s Dream. For example, models wore a range of beaded head pieces that had a Prohibition Era feel to them mixed with large stones like a third eye, to headdresses bejeweled with semi-precious stones, bones, small birds, and chains transforming models into queens of the forest. As Marisa describes her work, “I take old bits of jewelry pieces from the past and work in how they may be worn in a future world, and offer it for living in the present. They are big bites of magic which I hope inspire others.”

On hand to create the ambience were the Lucent Dossier Vaudeville Cirque Performers (who some may remember as the creators of the unique acorn tent space at Coachella) with various acts including characterizations of an impromptu tea party, fire eating and fire breathing, a pirate ship lounge, and Bedouin tent. Tucked in various nooks and coves were American Indian-inspired installations with turquoise paintings, wood, bone, metal, and feather mobiles, plus small assemblages of various stories with found art and environmental pieces by Shrine and KeithGreko Designs, light boxes of the designs and artwork of the fashion designers and collaborators, photographs by TinyDragonProductions and Allan Amato, and a chilling video installation of a mannequin reading from an ancient text by Patrick Mattison. One corner also featured artist Darrah Danielle and her Found Fables collection including bone artwork, a seahorse in a bottle, poems to Ophelia, fine art collages, and assemblages. Mixed with the sounds of Mass Ensemble who started the show by playing body violin with two bows, and ending with a romping DJ who mixed up old-school Mos Def and a surprising collection of Bay area hyphy, overall the evening transported attendees into a different time that mixed the past with the future. Those of us fortunate to experience it in the present, came away with a completely new way of seeing how things may be evolving in fashion, art, music, and entertainment, and the collage-effect that revealed the possibilities of a different kind of lifestyle that may just be around the corner.

Pool Trade Show’s Skin.Graft.Designs fashion showcase was also sponsored by Marani Vodka, Peroni Beer, Hint Water, Motley Bird Energy Drinks. Shoes were by John Fluevog, hair by Sean James Hair Team, Production by Rockstar Production, with p.r. by Pure Consulting.

 
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