Fashion meets function in Twisted X’s footwear. When function meets Jelly Cocanougher, she makes it plain fun.
Jelly Cocanougher works best late at night, blasting music and scribbling furiously. “I’ll listen to something weird and mindless very loudly and my mind takes off on a magical journey,” says the color and material designer for Twisted X. Sometimes inspiration strikes when she’s half-asleep.
Those paying attention to new Western footwear are desperate to guess what she'll come out with next, but even she can’t predict what her next design will be.
In 2017, Twisted X launched a line of footwear made with recycled plastic bottles, vying for the spotlight with megabrands such as Adidas, who launched their rescued-ocean-plastic sneakers in the same year.
It’s this kind of forward thinking that keeps Cocanougher happy in her role at Twisted X, which launched in 2005 as a Western bootmaker before branching out into driving moccasins and a wider range of casual, work, and outdoor shoes.
Cocanougher takes a hands-on approach to her job. Twisted X has a running joke that she’s tried on every shoe created in her time at the company. Although she doesn’t have a background in materials, she does have an eye-catching flair for design — and that made her quick to get noticed.
“When I first started with Twisted X, I was introduced to a gentleman who quickly commented on my shoes: dusty moccasins that I hand-painted the night before, to cure first-day jitters,” Cocanougher admits. “He was intrigued by the asymmetry of my design. I didn’t realize at the time that he would play a huge role in my career as a designer: He was the Twisted X President and CEO, Prasad Reddy. He opened the can of worms for me.”
Her slap-dash, experimental process fits right in at Twisted X. “We like to be the firsts in our industry, and even outside of the industry,” she says. “It’s not about looking for trends — it’s about making your own.”
These days, Reddy green lights Cocanougher’s colorful, asymmetrical, sugary designs with a simple cup of green tea and a nod. The designer’s free spirit has plenty of room to roam.
Cocanougher describes her eclectic designs as “bizarre.” She meshes styles and aesthetics with abandon — traditional Western with space; florals with geometry. “You have to get the vibes right,” she says.
But her work is about more than just exploring her own creative impulses. “The Western community is continuing to practice a lost art,” she says. “We are, in theory, pioneers of the last frontier, pushing the edge in fashion while practicing forgotten talents.”
That responsibility to question boundaries and carve out more space for Western in the fashion industry drives Cocanougher’s success at Twisted X, where she says ideas are welcomed and nurtured, and each shoe is carefully thought out to provide functionality and comfort.
For Cocanougher, design is “about bringing to light the uniqueness of the brand,” she says. “We’re a family. It takes a village to birth all of these designs.”
Photography: Images courtesy Jelly Cocanougher