Slipping the buzzword “sustainable” into your brand message is no longer enough—now the demand is for stylish products as high fashion as they are high-minded. And COTO, a New York-based line that has produced small groupings of well-designed sustainable luxury goods since 2005, is leading the charge. We sat down with co-founder Dominick Volini, who launched the brand with Tripp Madsen, to chat about the COTO credo, future collaborations and how Vermont has influenced the company’s designs.
JC Report: What distinguishes COTO from other brands?
Dominick Volini: Commitment to sustainability, for sure. There are very few brands that seek to develop their products within a sustainable platform. While some may touch on the subject for marketing purposes, COTO is committed to a sustainable process. All of our materials are sourced with this concept in mind, from fallen-rack antler horns for our cufflinks to the low-impact dyes in our ties. The subject of environmental responsibility is both a challenge and an inspiration that is in constant evolution.
JCR: Tell us about COTO’s latest collection.
DV: We are keeping it simple, clean and focused. For Summer 2008, we’ve developed some truly unique ties and cufflinks. Have you ever heard of a rounded tie with a micro-plaid pattern or cufflinks made from briar root? The rounded tie is the creative alternative to the conventional pointed design and the micro-plaid pattern understates the formal characteristics typically associated with the tie. Often used for handcrafting pipes, briar root is the material extension of ‘fallen’ antlers and Indian-head nickels, which we used for our existing collaboration with 20ltd.com. Each denotes a connection to past traditions while still retaining a modern feel. All of COTO’s designs showcase simple innovations on timeless styles. The collection will be exclusive to a few retailers as well as sold online through our site, Cotoluxe.com.
JCR: Does wabi-sabi mean anything to you?
DV: I think the Japanese concept is a good metaphor for the COTO aesthetic. To us, it represents appreciation for the process. Imperfection to one [person] is character to another. All of our designs seek to incorporate details that ultimately tell a broader story.
JCR: Who’s on your shortlist for collaborations?
DV: In the near future, I would like to work with Todd DiCiurcio (painter) and/or David Maisel (photographer) to produce some unusual print designs for our ties. Jenna Rivers (formerly of SVSV), in addition to designing her own eponymous line, is also helping us with our upcoming season’s collection. Her progressive taste and knowledge of the sustainable materials library is pairing well with the COTO aesthetic. We have also discussed potential opportunities with Daniel Jackson of Surface 2 Air, but nothing as of yet.
Another unbelievably talented, but lesser known, young industrial designer we are collaborating with is Greg Buntain. He is a good friend and has been a creative think-tank for us, developing everything from teak lounge chairs, bamboo capsule vials and our popular ‘Horny Cufflinks’. Look for some more interesting objets d’art to come.
JCR: What is sustainable luxury?
DV: Sustainable luxury is a term I first created when I started the brand in 2005. I had a vision to bridge the gap between all things high-end with sustainable design. It was, and still is, an under-explored area that has enormous room for development. I later found out that our friends John and Cynthia Hardy (of John Hardy jewelry) first coined the term a few years before us. After meeting with them in Bali, they have since become a huge philosophical influence in developing our sustainable business model.
JCR: How does Vermont inspire what you create?
DV: After living there for almost eight years and working for Burton Snowboards, I gained a greater appreciation for the natural world as my life there centered around the outdoors. I was also lucky enough in my position at the company to travel extensively, often to mountain resorts and remote surf destinations. The entire experience is very much a strong influence and continues to shape the aesthetic of my work with COTO.
This interview was conducted by Jason Campbell.