What better a designer to think up a dynamite denim collection than Matthew Adams Dolan for Jacob Cohën; it’s as if the denim gods dreamt it up! Jacob Cohën, led by artistic director Jennifer Tommasi Bardelle, is an Italian maison and a maestro of denim, known for proposing the most pop fabric in fashion as a status symbol. Its artisanally skillful expertise and obsessive attention to detail were what set it apart in a word of luxury which was already overflowing with denim designers. Now, Cohën’s legacy is continued in the hands of Matthew Adams Dolan who, on the other hand, is an American new generation cross-genre creative and International Woolmark Prize and LVMH Prize finalist whose own namesake label has denim in its DNA. Dolan even collaborated with Rihanna on her Fenty x Puma collections, creating top-notch denim for her buzzy brand – and we all know that Rihanna knows best. Under the veil of a heritage house and this Riri-approved collaborative design director, this capsule sees American denim culture melt into Italian craftsmanship.
By Dolan’s needle and thread, everything remains rife with the themes and techniques of Cohën’s central collection, yet classic elements are completely reinterpreted: for example, Cohën’s trucker, 5-pocket jean becomes delicate and airy and gathers feminine features. The eponymous label’s signature vaquero shirts too, becomes graciously girly. But the usual sturdiness is not forgotten by Dolan whose denim treatments come in crisp and translucent cotton organdy as well. Period references work their way into Cohën’s traditional silhouettes too, as embroidered scalloped hems, collars, pintucks and other heirloom sewing techniques.
Dolan gives the palette a sensual update as well with pretty pastels are the core – think pink, lilac, sage, coral and yellow. Turquoise is inlaid in rivets and woven in with cross stitching too, bringing a calmly audacious touch to the offering.
Here, Jennifer and Matthew join us on Zoom to discuss their denim-clad team-up.
Jennifer, what drew you to want to collaborate with Matthew?
Jennifer: When we started the partnership in December, I wanted to give some new energy to the womenswear. Keeping the DNA of Jacob Cohën, but I wanted to channel a more fashionable/contemporary women. I wanted to give a kick to this collection. I was looking to do a collab with someone, someone who could interpret my thoughts. I asked my friends to give me some suggestions. Going through a list of 10 people, I was immediately attracted to Matthew’s work. It was very easy actually; I didn’t even have to choose.
On the flip side, what attracted you Matthew to work with Jacob Cohën?
Matthew: I mean they have such a big history of being at the top level of Italian manufacturing. As a small company, it’s great being able to establish a relationship with that history and that precedent and being able to access and learn from all those things. It’s such an important part of any collaboration to have a mutual exchange. I think when any young designer is working with a bigger company, I would imagine that’s the most fruitful thing.
How did you go about fusing the codes of both brands through the collaboration?
Jennifer: The first thing I did was I showed Matthew what we had done before. I showed him the style I personally like. Even when my husband [Nicola Bardelle] was alive and he was doing the women’s collection, he was stealing clothes from my closet. What I really wanted was Matthew’s view of what I liked, of who I am. He’s been very brave and very capable of understanding me and understanding the company.
He’s very humble. He understood that the brand’s DNA and codes are in the fact rooted in craftsmanship, the details and the fabrics. I also had to be be respectful towards Matthew because he’s younger and his views are different. And his views are what I want. I want to dress a younger woman.
Matthew: It’s really important not to alienate an existing customer in any growth plan. So, even if there was a goal to bring in a younger customer to the brand and sort of introduce them to Jacob Cohën or even a customer that’s outside of Italy, I think it’s important not to alienate the customer that already existed for Jacob Cohën. In terms of DNA, it very much is about the pinnacle of quality and luxurious fabrics, down to all the small details. Everything is top level.
The collection is rooted in workwear staples, what made you want to head down this route?
Matthew: I think so much of what I’ve done in the past and what I’ve always obsessed with is looking at the evolution of American style. Denim is such an integral part of that. I think with the capsule collection, obviously denim is the core of the brand. It wasn’t just about making jeans, but rather complimentary pieces to create a wardrobe you could wear with them. It was looking at that balance.
What have you both took away from the collaboration?
Matthew: I think for me, when you’re working from a small company, everything needs to be so calculated. So, when you’re in a position with someone like Jennifer with all these big ideas, I think it’s interesting how to cipher these things down into something that is pragmatic.”
Jennifer: I love Matthews’s way of working. He’s very careful and very mathematical. It’s like Matthew has been working for 40 years, I really learnt a lot from him.
Photography courtesy of Jacob Cohën.