Jonathan Simkhai - Mirror Faces And Cigar Humidifiers
Another name we’re excited about this season at MADE is Jonathan Simkhai. That hasn’t always been his name – during school his call sign was Spike, thanks to a classic ’90s gelled hairdo when he was working in local Westchester boutiques. His route into the business was via retail, thanks to a fashion-obsessed mother, who had him trail her retail frenzies in the local malls and exercise full veto power over her purchases.
Rather than being someone who idolized designers of the time, the lightbulb moment that made Simkhai want to get into the rag trade was “when the customer pulled the ‘mirror face.’" The second he knew a sale was in the bag was when he dragged a customer out of her comfort zone and coaxed her into something unexpected that she had to see in the mirror. It was then that he learned the “power of fashion” – the new-found confidence a girl would have once he had worked his magic on her – “I like making people smile." A burgeoning following of hungry customers came next, and he wound up doing everything from visual merchandising to influencing the buying.
A crisis of confidence sent him to Parsons and FIT, but not long into the program, he missed being on the shop floor interacting with the customers and went back into retail, via two years working with the family textile factory business. And now retail life has come full circle for him – his line is carried at Bergdorfs, Net-a-Porter, Barneys among many others. It’s safe to say his modus operandi is knowing what women want, and when, and how. As an artist, his is the art of retail.
What is interesting about Simkhai is that he doesn’t have a specific customer in mind. From his retail experience, he knows what ingredients a girl needs to get her to the right stylistic place. So for him, a leather sweater that the uptown girl can throw on over a pencil skirt will “mess her up a bit." A sassy cocktail dress will give a downtown girl a lick of polish and “make her more balanced."
Inspiration-wise, it is lifestyle that drives him. “It’s not so much a building, or a painting – it’s more like what are they wearing at Coachella," he says. Although when pressed about the ideas behind his forthcoming collection, he opens up about the trigger for his new collection for this coming week at MADE which is way more interesting. “I saw a really beautiful cigar humidifier. It was crocodile with wood inside. It looked like a men’s study. It’s such a panty dropper. It’s so sexy to me”.
He built a whole story around the cigar humidifier. “Kind of like American Psycho, without killing anyone. This guy is a little dangerous, very sexy, very well put together, he’s an intellectual. A fantasy man.” He wants to give his girl that power. “She has her own study and is a little dangerous. She’s cool, she’s sporty, she’s uptown, she’s downtown.” If only mirrors could have their own internal camera – getting the mirror face on the girl who tries on this collection will be an interesting one.
Photography by Amanda Hakan