‘Making the Cut’ on Amazon: Meet the winner Jonny Cota

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Even though it hadn’t debuted when the global coronavirus pandemic was deeply reshaping the worlds of entertainment, fashion and retail, Amazon’s foray into reality TV – the 10 episodes “Making the Cut”, which concluded its first season on Friday – was intended to be a game-changer. Not only because it brought together the dynamic duo “Project Runway” Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, but also because each episode would see at least one piece of clothing go straight from the runway to retail in the Amazon online store Fashion, making “on-screen” entertainment as simple as a few clicks of the mouse.

It also changed the game – not to mention the career accelerator – for freshly struck winner Jonny Cota, founder and creative director of Skingraft, a 14-year-old DTLA-based fashion brand that beat 11 other designers around the world whole. world to win $ 1 million in prizes, a year-long mentorship with Amazon Fashion and an Amazon online store showcasing its final collection of 20 pieces.

Before Friday’s finale, we met with Cota, whose work has been on our radar for more than two decades, to talk about her “Making the Cut” experience, including where that money went, what made her the most surprised the show and if judge Naomi Campbell was as scary in person as it was the safety of our couches. (It was, he said, and then some.)

Below are excerpts from this conversation, edited for clarity and condensed.

The winner of

“Making the Cut” winner Jonny Cota, left, with host Tim Gunn in the season finale.

(David Scott Holloway / Amazon Studios)

Let’s start with the most obvious question: what did you do with the million dollar price?

All 2020 is funded by the million dollar prize I won on “Making the Cut” … [new] Mark [Jonny Cota], continuing with Skingraft, mentoring with Amazon. … This year is fully funded and we are in full swing.

What is the most important thing you hope to gain from the mentoring portion of the award?

What I’ve experienced so far – and what I hope to continue to gain from mentoring from Amazon Fashion – is how to speak directly to my clients, how to bring my niche brand, my niche aesthetic, in a global market. [We’re using] clear pictures, concise descriptions of the cut, [and we’ve] size charts fully updated. These are all things that I have not done a great job [with] over the past 10 years and they really mentor me to create a much more accessible and much more upbeat version of my brand.

Each of the episodes focused on a different aspect of growing a label – things like collaboration, evolution, creating a business plan. Was there one that you found most useful in charting your own path?

The episode of the digital campaign. I’ve been expecting something like this all season. I was like, “I thought we weren’t really sewing on this show” and every episode we were going to sew. So when we finally got the chance to show a different skill set that a creative director should have – how to design, lead and design a solid campaign – I knew as soon as they announced this assignment [that] I would excel. And I did. [But] then, after celebrating my campaign, [the judges] spent a few minutes saying how much they hated the name Skingraft.

Where does the name Skingraft come from?

When we started, I had no budget and my first collection of leather jackets was scraps of leather from goodwill used parts. Each little piece was no bigger than a few inches and everything was awfully sewn together. A friend pointed out that it looked like skin grafts and I was like, “This is exactly what the brand is going to be called! “

The designer Jonny Cota says that his new brand, Jonny Cota Studio, shows a softer side in which he could rely on

Designer Jonny Cota says his new brand, Jonny Cota Studio, shows a softer side on which he was able to build on “Making the Cut”.

(Amazon Studios)

What is the current status of this label?

I launch my exclusive collection with Amazon [Fashion] called Jonny Cota Studio and I will continue to put the majority of my energy throughout Jonny Cota. Skingraft will stay and continue to be his gothic little self, but I’ve been waiting for years for my [name] and get out from behind the curtain and get into mine in the spotlight. So 2020 – and the future – that’s it [the] Jonny Cota [label].

For people who might not have seen the show – or who realized that it included the birth of a new namesake label – how would you describe the difference between Skingraft and the new brand Jonny Cota?

Skingraft is very niche, it’s tough, it’s fierce, it’s dark, it’s downtown Los Angeles – that’s all I like. And it’s always me. But through my trip on the show, I started to take off some of the hardness and that revealed a softer, more feminine side. I played with prints, I played with silks, I played with just sort of letting go and seeing what’s coming. [The new line] is always of the same spirit and the same world – it’s not radically different – I just think Jonny Cota is designed for a wider audience. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about being accessible to the world rather than being a downtown niche [brand].

Have you noticed any halo effect on your existing business once the episodes started airing?

During the show, our sales jumped about 500%. It was a super exciting month for us. we [had been] play with the idea of ​​concluding Skingraft at the end of the show, but now it has this new dynamic, this new clientele, new energy and new excitement, so I think both brands will continue to work.

If and when there is another “Making the Cut” season, what advice would you give to potential candidates?

Meditate on who you are as a designer and who you want to be. I came to this competition thinking that I was just going to make some pretty looks and send them on the track – you’re in, you went out, whatever. I didn’t know that we would be so challenged to defend ourselves constantly, to explain our inspiration clearly, to excite the judges and the people around us with what we [were] saying. I was not prepared for this [and] in the first episodes, I had a little trouble. [Eventually] I understood that the show reflected the real world and [that] being spoken well is one of the greatest strengths you can have as a designer. Designers need to focus on their voices. Who are you? What is your aesthetic?

How has the appearance on “Making the Cut” affected your career path?

You’ve been with me from the start – you were one of my very first critics – so you saw how I have been jostling in Los Angeles for 10 years. And I got a lot of traction which I am grateful for. But it’s really hard to break through that LA fashion glass ceiling so I think “Making the Cut” just cut about 10 years off my career path and that gave me that major boost that I wouldn’t have could have obtained if I had not continued on the same path.

Speaking of L.A., do you think being based here has given you any advantage in navigating the entertainment world?

Being from Los Angeles – or New York or any big city that has an entertainment industry – gives you an understanding that all imported. I know [the show] it’s celebrating our creations and judging our strengths as designers, but I watch TV, I live in Los Angeles, I understand. How you do, how you interview, how you talk about your inspiration – that all imported.

Was there anything about the way the show came together that surprised you?

I was shocked by the little production of “Making the Cut” [team] encouraged specific interactions. The show never set up false scenes. They would say something like, “Hey, you’re going to have lunch together,” and we’d all say, “Should we fight? Should there be more drama? “I grew up on reality TV, so [I was thinking], “Shouldn’t they put up some sort of [confrontation]? We continued to wait and wonder when the drama was going to happen. But they just captured everything that happened; they never set up a situation.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many fashion brands and designers have turned to the manufacture of masks and other personal protective equipment. How did you get involved?

Skingraft made a really cool promotion last week. We partnered with the Tom of Finland store and offered a one-for-one deal where they sold our famous Skingraft fabric masks and for each mask purchased, we donated them to the Los Angeles LGBT Center for their employees. We just sent our first shipment to the LGBT Center the other day and another one at the end of the week and more than 200 masks are being sent to them.

A glimpse of Jonny Cota's winning collection on

A glimpse of Jonny Cota’s winning collection on “Making the Cut”.

(Janice Yim / Amazon Studios)

Is Naomi Campbell as terrifying when you stand there, judged by her, as when we look from home?

It is 10 times more frightening in real life – and 10 times more beautiful. She was amazing on a magazine that covers her whole life, then when you see her in person, you think, “You are not from this planet. You are the most beautiful stranger I have ever seen. “

Before the coronavirus pandemic changed the world so dramatically, how did you plan to mark the broadcast of the finale and celebrate your big win?

I thought I would be celebrating with all my friends and having the biggest watch party of my life – Jonny Cota’s Super Bowl – but instead I organize a big Zoom party with my friends, my family and my husband , which makes a great fancy cocktail. We will just make the most of it.

Will the cocktail be called Jonny Cota?

Of course, it’s called Jonny Cota – and it’s served!

Last question: what was the last thing you ordered from Amazon?

My light ring for all my Zoom parties.



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