A Conversation With: Jonathan Simkhai
June 2, 2016
Elegance takes a new form in Jonathan Simkhai’s Fall/Winter 2016 collection. With inspiration from around the world, the designer created pieces true to his aesthetic while adding layers of intricacy and grace. Here, Simkhai explains what drives his work, the metropolitan women it’s created for, and what’s to come in the future.
Neiman Marcus: Tell us more about how your experience as a buyer and merchandiser at the young age of 14 inspired you to become a designer.
Jonathan Simkhai: My experience as a buyer and merchandiser gave me insight into what real women wanted to wear and how they wanted to look, along with what made them feel confident and sexy. To meet customers and hear these wants and needs first-hand was invaluable and definitely played a role in my decision to pursue a career in design. It allowed me to see what was missing from the women’s fashion market and helped inspire the basis for my brand.
NM: You say “your girl” is the modern cosmopolitan woman. Can you elaborate?
JS: My modern cosmopolitan woman is always on the go. She’s a working professional with an active social life, and she desires timeless style and comfortable luxury—pieces that are aspirational, yet wholly wearable. She wants a look that is modern while at the same time effortless, and never overly trendy. She is radically elegant—representing a perfect balance between hard and soft, audacious and courteous, masculine and feminine.
NM: How did becoming a winner of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2015 change your life and career?
JS: Winning the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund was an incredible honor. It provided the Jonathan Simkhai brand with fantastic exposure and garnered amazing support from the fashion industry as a whole. The time I was able to spend with each of the judges during the Fashion Fund and the expert advice I received from industry leaders was invaluable.
Michael Kors will be acting as my mentor over the next year, and as he is someone who has built a global luxury empire, it is such an honor to have the opportunity to receive his guidance on building my brand. I will always feel blessed for both the experience and the outcome of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.
NM: What has been your favorite collection to date? Why does it stand out for you?
JS: My favorite thus far has probably been my most recent collection for Fall/Winter 2016, which was heavily focused on developing and customizing lace fabrics. I really wanted to step it up in terms of the fabrics and trims used, and the intricacy involved in each piece.
NM: Your latest collection consisted primarily of long and lean looks. Where did you find inspiration for this silhouette?
JS: I tend to gravitate toward those silhouettes because my collections are many times inspired by elements of urban architecture, which often encompass those shapes. For Spring/Summer 2016, for example, the “Tower Lace” fabric was created from original artwork of New York City skyscrapers. For Fall/Winter 2016, my main inspiration was the angular work of Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
The long, lean shapes are created by the way the fabrics and textural elements are manipulated to contour a woman’s body in the most flattering ways; but for Fall 2016, it was also created through monochromatic dressing in a sophisticated color palette, which also works to create a long, lean silhouette. My past collections showed clothing that was very body-con. Yet, in this collection, many of the styles were still close enough to the body to be sexy without being super tight—more of an A-line silhouette. In light, the transparent fabrics gave the effect of floating away from the body rather than hugging it.
NM: Which fabric from the Fall 2016 collection was your favorite to work with?
JS: My favorite fabrics to work with from Fall 2016 were the custom laces.
NM: You’ve recently discovered that your grandfather owned a lace and embroidery factory in Iran. How has this discovery inspired your work?
JS: Yes, my grandfather owned a lace factory in Iran in the 1970s. My father found a box of his old machinery formulas in the attic, which were given to me after my grandfather passed away. The development and customization of these one-of-a-kind laces have given me the opportunity to incorporate my heritage and make collections that are even more personal to me—and as a designer, that is a very special experience.
NM: What is one item every woman needs from your Fall 2016 collection?
JS: For Fall 2016, I think every woman needs a trumpet sleeve. It’s an updated silhouette that looks fresh and chic whether it’s represented as a top, dress, or sweater.
NM: What ideas are in the works for your Resort 2017 collection?
JS: The Resort 2017 collection is really focused on embellishment. This is the first time that I will be incorporating beading into my collections. I’m in India right now meeting with local artisans who specialize in intricate beadwork and embroidery.
NM: Where do you see your brand in five years? In ten?
JS: Over the course of the next five years, I see the Jonathan Simkhai brand expanding into other categories. My dream is for Jonathan Simkhai to become a global lifestyle brand, and hopefully, a household name.
Longing for the latest pieces by Jonathan Simkhai? Shop the collection here.