NEW YORK -- When L.A.-based Skingraft made its New York Fashion Week debut last season, the venue was Pier 59 at the edge of Manhattan. For its sophomore outing, on Feb. 11, designer Jonny Cota brought his brand all the way into the fashion fold, staging Skingraft's fall and winter 2014 runway show in the Lincoln Center tents.
The shift of locale was a wholly appropriate symbolic one -- the brand seems to have truly evolved into an impressive, fully formed collection that ranged from beautifully detailed leather dresses to chunky quilted outerwear -- lots and lots of the latter.
Inspiration: "[T]he idea of drastic climate change and an inevitable return to a dystopian survivalist future."
Based on the Siberian, Mongolian and artic tribal cultures referenced in the collection, it was clear before the first look hit the catwalk that Cota and company were envisioning not warmer climes but colder ones.
The look: Although that inspiration could be seen in things like various animal motifs (bears, wolves), this collection felt more like it had bubbled up from streetwear than blown down from the Arctic Circle.
There was lots of black leather -- on its own in drop-crotch pants, dresses, jogging pants (one of the week's big menswar trends), motocross-inspired pencil skirts and jackets with geometric quilting that formed mosaic-meets-origami animal faces -- and in mixed fabrication pieces like shirts (leather and silk), cardigan sweaters and tunics (leather and wool) and bomber jackets (leather and nylon).
There were also some serious outerwear offerings on the runway -- a wool toggle coat with a hood roomy enough for two extra heads was the most eye-catching -- and a couple of meticulously constructed black leather dresses accented with blue swirls of color that reminded us of winter twilight filtered through 40 feet of glacier ice.
In addition, the word Alpha (which was also the title of the collection) appeared on a handful of pieces -- including sweatshirts, sleeveless tunics and the arms of black dress shirts framed by braid-like details.
Of note: Maybe it was the animal-ear trucker hats, but several of the animal-themed looks -- that paired panel pants or shorts with quilted moto jackets -- reminded us a bit of Riccardo Tisci's past collections for Givenchy: Rottweiler T-shirts, panther-ear hats and the like.
Verdict: With this collection, there's no doubt Skingraft has arrived on the New York Fashion Week scene. Will it follow the fashion pack from here on out or lead like an Alpha dog?
We don't know -- but we can't wait to find out.