When Jill Biden arrived in Washington with her husband Joe on Jan. 19, the day before his presidential inauguration, she was wearing an outfit and mask designed by a company founded by an Atlanta International School graduate.
Sarah Leff, a 2005 graduate of the Buckhead school, is the co-founder and CEO of Jonathan Cohen Studio, a New York-based fashion house. Biden wore the outfit and mask both when her family got to Washington and later in the day during a ceremony honoring the 400,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19 in the past year.
“It’s a great honor,” Leff said. “It was very exciting for both Jonathan and myself.”
Biden wore a purple paneled dress and wrap coat that are both part of the company’s fall 2021 collection “that will be going to market in the coming weeks,” Leff said, adding it believes in sustainability by upcycling its old fabrics into new products.
“(The outfit and mask) were made in New York,” she said. “We do manufacturing and development in New York. The lining of the coat is from (the company’s) past seasons and the mask is made from fabric remnants.”
Leff has a bachelor’s degree in strategic design and management from Parsons School of Design and a master’s degree in luxury education at Columbia Business School, both in New York. While at Parsons, she met Cohen, and they started formulating ideas for what would become Jonathan Cohen Studio, which launched in 2011. Today Leff is in charge of the brand’s operational and commercial side.
“We are so thrilled for Sarah that she has been recognized in this way,” Atlanta International Head of School Kevin Glass said in a news release. “She has always been very generous with her time, returning to AIS to share her experience of the design industry, startups and growing a business whilst staying true to your beliefs. She is a great inspiration to our students, and we are so proud of all she has achieved.”
Leff said Atlanta International prepared her well for college and a career in the fashion industry.
“I think during my time at AIS, I learned early what I wanted to do with my passion for entrepreneurship,” she said. “My (journey) to New York led to that, through my internships and experiences in New York.”
Of the exposure her company received from Biden’s outfit and mask, Leff said, “It’s been a great experience. It’s very important for us to learn about the women who wear Jonathan Cohen, and she is a Jonathan Cohen woman.”