Worn Well

NYFW: Designer Jonathan Cohen Upcycled Swarovski Crystals into One-of-A-Kind Teva Sandals

Jonathan Cohen

Go behind-the-scenes at New York Fashion Week to hear how Jonathan Cohen styled Teva sandals into day-to-evening statements for his Spring 2020 runway looks. 

Season after season, designers have been styling Teva sandals to polish off their runway looks and outfit backstage comfort during New York Fashion Week—the twice-yearly tastemaker event that propels future fashion trends. This year, we caught up with one of those designers, New York-based Jonathan Cohen to go behind-the-scenes of his Spring 2020 presentation.

Cohen mined his Mexican heritage and childhood memories for his latest collection of dresses embroidered by artisans, colorful custom prints inspired by California imagery and separates crafted from eco-friendly fabrics. He shared that it began with a single image: “a traditional Mexican serape blanket reimagined to resemble an American flag, its electric bands of pink, green, red and yellow set against a deep blue square of fifty paper-white stars.”

Designer Jonathan Cohen

Designer Jonathan Cohen. 

Cohen’s family is originally from Mexico City and he grew up in San Diego, a city on the edge of the California-Mexico border. He described the frequent border crossings during his childhood as “seamless—a beautiful blur of colors and cultures that inhabited my imagination as one place, not two.” In sunny California, sandals were a year-round staple. “Everyone wore Teva sandals to school, even in nice restaurants. It was just the lifestyle of a beach town,” he explained.

Here, Cohen shared more about his Spring 2020 collection, designing with environmental sustainability in mind, and why he refashioned Teva Midform Universal sandals with luxe Swarovski crystals to create a day-to-evening statement item.

Jonathan Cohen

The Midform Universal worn with Jonathan Cohen. Photo by Luke Shadbolt.

Jonathan Cohen

The Midform Universal worn with Jonathan Cohen. Photo by Luke Shadbolt. 

Tell us more about how your upbringing in San Diego inspired this collection. 

JONATHAN COHEN: This collection is an expression of a fluid state: the integration of the formal, embellished beauty of Mexican art, food and textiles with the urban, relaxed rhythms of California. I remember summers spent with my cousins and grandmother in Acapulco and the simple pleasures of the ocean, fresh fruit and the delicate fragrance of dahlia blooms. As a teenager in La Jolla, each morning I’d observe surfers in the parking lot of my public high school—the one immortalized in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book “The Pump House Gang”—just a block from the beach, peeling off their wetsuits before class.

You’ll see manifestations of these memories in the prints I’ve hand-drawn: Día de Los Muertos skulls, embroidered flowers with petals in the shape of longboards, the California blue jay and grizzly bear, floral jacquards and crocheted knits. There are one-of-a-kind pieces designed in collaboration with Kilometre Paris, embroidered by artisans in Mexico City and certified organic denim washed with non-toxic enzymes. A cocktail dress cut in ECONYL (100% regenerated nylon) embroidered with upcycled Swarovski crystals and a skirt made entirely of fabric from past seasons are also important meditations on the type of house we want to be: one that is responsible for and conscious of its impact on the world.

Jonathan Cohen

The Midform Universal worn with Jonathan Cohen. Photo by Luke Shadbolt. 

Jonathan Cohen

The Midform Universal worn with Jonathan Cohen. Photo by Luke Shadbolt.

How did you style or customize Teva in this collection? 

JONATHAN COHEN: I always love to challenge what “day to evening” dressing means to our modern customer. I loved the concept of remaking the Teva sandal and changing the perception of what it means to someone. We wanted a shoe that you can wear in a casual setting, but also in a more formal situation as well. That’s when it gets exciting for me. Suddenly, the idea of an evening shoe becomes something completely different. I kept thinking to myself, “if I were to see someone in this shoe, I would not only think she looks cool, fabulous, and interesting, but also be envious that she is comfortable.” That’s the epitome of the Jonathan Cohen woman… she makes you think and changes your perception.

Teva Swarovski Sandals

Behind the scenes at Jonathan Cohen: upcycled Swarovski crystals were hand-beaded in intricate patterns on Midform Universal sandals for his runway show. 

Jonathan Cohen

The Midform Universal worn with Jonathan Cohen. Photo by Luke Shadbolt. 

We loved the intricate beading you applied on Teva sandals! Tell us more about how you achieved this look. 

JONATHAN COHEN: We are really fortunate to have an amazing partnership with Swarovski. As a company, we are focusing on waste reduction and Swarovski is very much focused on this challenging problem as well. This season, the majority of the crystals used in this collection were upcycled crystals. We loved the idea of using these crystals to create a more “evening” look with Teva sandals. The team in the studio worked relentlessly, hand-beading each crystal into the Teva sandal webbings. We were so excited about the results and even happier with the reaction. We had one of our stores come in and say, “I am going to wear that with jeans and with my evening pieces.” So, our goal was accomplished.

Teva Swarovski Sandals

A closer look at the Midform Universal sandal, hand sewn with Swarovski crystals for Jonathan Cohen’s runway show. 

How was it different to work with the Teva sandals in comparison to designing clothing?

JONATHAN COHEN: Any time you are working with another category, it has its own challenges and learning curves. The great thing about partnering with a brand like Teva is that they have already mastered their category, so it was exciting to come into a project where I already knew the fit and style.

Jonathan Cohen

The Midform Universal worn with Jonathan Cohen. Photo by Luke Shadbolt. 

Jonathan Cohen

Jonathan Cohen used fabric remnants to decorate Midform Universal sandals in contrasting colors, diverting these scraps from landfill.

Jonathan Cohen

The Midform Universal worn with Jonathan Cohen. Photo by Luke Shadbolt. 

What was the most memorable NYFW moment for you this season and why? 

JONATHAN COHEN: There was a moment backstage after the show that brought me to tears, which in all honesty is rare. Once the show ended, the models came to say goodbye. One model, in particular, came up to me on the verge of tears. She told me that it was her dream to walk the show and she thanked me. She started to cry and said, “I never thought I would be cast because I am too short.” I do not know why, but that deeply hit me to my core and I began to cry. When I met her, I didn’t even think of her height—we all just loved her energy and the look she brought to the collection. I think sometimes, we forget how we can affect someone’s life in a positive way. It reminded me why I do what I do.

Shop the latest Midform Universal Sandals at Teva.com