Exclusive: Conversation with Amazon’s Making the Cut Season 1 Winner

The final three designers (from left to right); Sander Bos, Esther Perbandt, and Jonny Cota (Photo by David Scott Holloway)

Spoilers for episodes 9 and 10 of Amazon’s Making the Cut!


In the final two episodes of Making the Cut, available now on Prime Video, Jonny Cota, Esther Perbandt and Sander Bos advance to the final three, and Jonny emerges the winner of the pop-up store challenge.  With Sander eliminated, Jonny and Esther face off in the final runway of the series after presenting their business plans to Christine Beauchamp, the president of Amazon Fashion, in episode 10.

‘Making the Cut’ judges (from left to right): Naomi Campbell, Nicole Richie, Chiara Ferragni, Joseph Altuzarra, and Heidi Klum (Photo Credit: Amazon)

In the final deliberation, the judges, after consulting Christine Beauchamp about the designers’ business plan presentations, talked to both Jonny and Esther to decide the winner.  With Heidi and Naomi voting for Esther and Joseph and Chiara voting for Jonny, the final vote was up to Nicole.    

Nicole votes for…. Jonny Cota, making him the winner of Making the Cut.  Cota will receive $1 million dollars to invest in his brand, a 1-year mentorship with the Amazon Fashion team, and a collection to be exclusively in Amazon Fashion’s store.

Jonny Cota, the winner of Amazon’s ‘Making the Cut’ (Photo Credit: Amazon)

When I previously interviewed Jonny Cota, a designer on Amazon’s first reality competition show, Making the Cut, we talked about the friendships he formed with other contestants, his growth as a designer/ entrepreneur over the course of the show, and what the future holds. 

I followed up with Jonny to find out how it felt for him to compete against his friends as well as what winning means for him.

Gerald Biggerstaff: Good morning!  Congrats on the win!

Jonny Cota: Thank you!

GB: When we previously spoke, you told me about the friendship you developed with Esther and Sander.  What was your feelings on facing them as the final three and then with Sander eliminated, facing off against Esther in the finale?

The top three designers find out from Tim Gunn one of them will be eliminated after pop-up shop challenge (Photo by David Scott Holloway)

JC: Like I said in the show, I knew from day one those two would be in the finale and I was just fine for that third spot.  So, I was thrilled to be amongst such talent and talented designers I really respected. I was shocked to my core that Sander got sent home because he was just such a strong designer and I just thought they were going to say “Okay, we’re going to the rule book and all three of you are going to show your collections.”  So, I was shocked and devastated he went home but to be up against Esther, my closest friend on the show and the person I kind of respect most aesthetically on the show, it felt incredible.  It felt, like obviously I wanted to win but I didn’t want her to not win, so it was kind like made this beautiful moment where no matter who was going to win, I was going to be excited for the outcome.

Jonny Cota’s Finale Runway Collection, Metamorphosis (Photo Credit: Amazon)
Jonny Cota’s Finale Runway Collection, Metamorphosis (Photo Credit: Amazon)
Jonny Cota’s Finale Runway Collection, Metamorphosis (Photo Credit: Amazon)

GB: How hard was it to have to wait to share that you won (Making the Cut)?

JC: Oh, it was torture to keep the secret for so long, but it all paid off last night (Thursday, April 23) when I watched it with 30 of my closest friends and my family on a Zoom party. I’m so happy I didn’t tell a single soul because I wanted them to follow the narrative of the show.  I wanted them to see my ups and my downs.  The time I barely made it and then the times I won.  I knew the show was going to lay it out exactly how it played out and my words could never accurately describe how challenging the whole experience was for me so, it was a secret I resented keeping, at first, and then I really was happy it was a secret for everyone.  They all got to experience it together.

GB: Now that you’re able to say that you won, how does this affect your future plans?

JC: I’ve known I was the winner since we wrapped filming, so my plan has remained the same.  It’s to put all of my energy into JONNY COTA STUDIOS, which just launched alongside the finale on Amazon Fashion.  I’m going to make the most out of this mentorship that I have been granted with Amazon Fashion and I am going to help it build a brand that is greater than just the one collection that was released.  But I want it to gain momentum so it can be a brand that thrives for years on Amazon.

Jonny Cota Studio Collection for Amazon (Photo Credit: Amazon)
Jonny Cota Studio Collection for Amazon (Photo Credit: Amazon)

GB: There was that one moment between you and Naomi (Campbell) after you were declared the winner.  You said to her, “You were pivotal in this. You really pushed me.”

JC: Yeah. In episode two when she raked me through the coals and fed me to the wolves after the couture challenge, it ignited a fire in me I didn’t know I needed in order to prosper in the competition.  I went there super timid and not confident in my skills and I thought I was only going to last a few episodes, and when she came for me I episode two, I took it. I listened to all of her critiques and I said, “I’m not going home like this.  I can do better.” And she lit a fire in me that always pushed me past my comfort zone. It pushed me to explore a greater design language I hadn’t been exploring for a long time and every single challenge, though I wanted to win and though I wanted to impress all the judges, I always had my sights on impressing Naomi. 

Heidi Klum and Naomi Campbell (Photo by David Scott Holloway)

GB: How has the pandemic had an influence on you artistically?

JC: As a businessperson, the pandemic has affected me a lot. I mean, it’s scary. I’m focusing on my health and the safety of myself and my team first, but it’s kind of giving me this awesome opportunity to shift more into the digital landscape.  I’ve always wanted to interact more with my customers and my followers, as a brand and as a person, but I never have time because I’m always running the store.  I’m always designing the next collection, but for the past month, I am bursting with inspiration on just digital ways to connect with our customer. How do they get to know me or the styles I’m releasing or the brand story in a more effective way?  So, in this crazy way, I think it’s perfect timing for me as an artist, for me to reassess my approach and to expand my horizons.

GB: The judges complemented you on your pop-up shop in episode nine, saying you knew your stuff when it comes to your shop.  How did that make you feel knowing you were on the right track?

JC: I was thrilled to win episode nine with the pop-up shop, and in episode eight when I’m pleading for the last spot in the top three against Megan, I said very clearly, “Hey, I came here for competition. I’m not great at sewing. I’m not a great pattern maker, but I made it this far. I am great at the big picture things.  For ten years, I’ve had a store.  I do runway shows in New York and I do campaigns.  Let me show you all the other strengths I have as a creative director and I promise you I will impress you.” So, episode nine, winning the pop-up shop challenge was the perfect redemption.  It was like, “See, I told you. I can think big and I can think like a professional brand.”

GB: Nicole (Richie) seemed to be very surprised about your, to put it in your own words, “metamorphosis” because she hadn’t been on the show since you left Paris (episode 5). She became the final vote.  Were you nervous she was going to vote for Esther?

JC: I had zero clue about how Nicole was going to voteShe hadn’t seen me since Paris and I feel like the majority of my growth happened in Tokyo, so I knew that at the same time, she hadn’t seen Esther since Paris either.  I kind of like that twist was that she was a new voice who was coming in a little bit more fresh, you know. She was seeing it more for the first time and so, I had zero clue on how she was going to vote and when she said my name, my whole life changed.

GB: You said you plan on celebrating.  How do you plan on celebrating given all of this social distancing right now?

JC: (laughs) Well, my plan was to have this giant watch party at my favorite bar months ago, but instead I had a big Zoom party last night.  We have been working around the clock getting our online store ready to go live on Amazon this weekend.  So, once the dust settles, my husband (Frank Helmer) and I are just open a bottle of champagne, sit on the deck, do nothing for a weekend, and just take it in. Take in the victory and just really cherish the moment.

GB: Nice.  Well, that is all the questions I have.  Congratulations again, Jonny, and good luck in your future endeavors.

JC: Thank you so much!  


Jonny’s collection, JONNY COTA STUDIO, can be found at amazon.com/jonnycotastudio now. The collection includes men’s and women’s styles, from tops and bottoms to dresses and outerwear and will range from $40-$365 with sizes ranging from XS-XXL.


Overall, I loved Making the Cut, the only thing I would change is for them not to have contestants like the first few to go home.  One contestant who eliminated early, in particular, did not even fight to stay and gave up too easily.  It is an insult to the ones that really fought to be there.  I eagerly await a second season of Making the Cut, as long as Naomi Campbell comes back.  All of the judges were amazing, but I really loved seeing Naomi every week giving brutally honest critiques.  All 10 episodes of Making the Cut are available to stream now on Amazon’s Prime Video service.


Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one contributing writer and may not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.


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