by Brian Lipton
Jay Kos
Jay Kos

Walking into Jay Kos’ shop in NoLiTa (293 Mott Street) is to enter a world of luxury and excitement that matches few places in New York. The designer’s third store in Manhattan (following his now-closed locations on Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue) is not just an emporium for Kos’ high-end apparel (pieces of which can easily run into five figures); it’s a showplace for the veteran designer’s imagination.

“I am always designing and constantly finding inspiration,” he says. “I was watching this show Narcos on television, and I began to fixate on gangster-inspired clothing. And I travel around the world and get ideas from everyplace I go.”

Indeed, his just-launching S/S ’16 collection, while all made in Italy, is practically like opening an atlas. There are Thai-inspired printed silk pants; pants made from rare African prints; whimsical shirts celebrating China’s “Year of the Monkey”; velour felt hats made from French rabbit fur and more.

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As always, there’s an explosion of color in the collection, from a pink cotton unconstructed blazer with patch packets to a floral purple-and-gold suit made of French goat skin with a vintage silk lining to a turquoise sheared mink blazer. Kos knows that most American men are “afraid of color,” but he’s found a clientele – ranging from actors and hip-hop musicians to denizens of SoHo – with a somewhat wilder streak. They also share Kos’ personal fondness for leather apparel (he’s particularly excited this season about working in woven leather) and his fascination with hats of every sort.

As for now, they need to come to New York to see Kos’ creations in person, but that could change. He’s considering wholesaling his clothes to some of Los Angeles’ top specialty stores or even opening a store in L.A. “I think that it is the next big hotspot for fashion,” he says.