Admit it, we all aspire to be that carefree girl who looks effortlessly cool. Well, with the help of Jonathan Simkhai, that look may be easier to pull off than you think. The designer started his namesake line in 2010, but it was when he launched his L.A. and Lords of Dogtown-inspired collection that we really took notice. (He had us at the mirrored sunglasses.) Simkhai gave the concept of easy, almost boyish dressing an element of fantasy and flair—it was like the pool party we wanted to be attend. He’s since added pre-collections to his offerings and has plans on the horizon to expand into menswear.
We sat down with the designer as he put the final touches on his upcoming collection to talk about the keys to retail success, the many women he designs for and, of course, Coachella. Read on to see what he had to say and see a sneak peek and his new collection above. —Megan Hayes(@_mshayes)
Lifestyle Mirror: Where do you get your inspiration? Jonathan Simkhai: I draw my inspiration from women in my life, thinking about where they’re going and what they’re doing, what their needs are. Sometimes I actually ask myself too, If I were her, what I would want to wear? And I think that’s what brings the masculine, boyish feel to it. After that, it’s really about adding a fantasy element.
LM: What was the inspiration for this collection? JS: This collection was specifically inspired by the ska bands of the late ’70s, early ’80s. That whole kind of two-tone era.
LM: How did your interest in (and passion for) design and fashion develop? JS: I worked for my dad and my uncle who do an apparel manufacturing company and in doing so gained an understanding and appreciation for what works at the retail level.
LM: How has being a part of the CFDA Fashion Incubator program helped foster your growth? JS: It’s a lot like a football game to me, if that makes sense. I just got put into the game and they’re the cheerleaders, cheering me on and running with me all along, following me until I get to that touchdown line and just making sure that I’m ready and excited. It’s good pressure in the fact that you really want to prove yourself to them—you want to succeed for the people who are rooting for you and cheering for you.
LM: Menswear has been a major influence in your collections. How do you balance the masculine aesthetics while still maintaining the feminine appeal? JS: I think there’s something really fascinating about the girl who is really cool and careless, the one completely comfortable in her boyfriend’s sweatshirt. She knows she’s cute.
LM: Who is the woman you design for? JS: That’s a very challenging question ’cause I don’t single anyone out, and I don’t know if it’s selfish or greedy, but I really want everyone to wear my clothes and I have something for everyone. Between my mom, Taylor Tomasi Hill, and Jayne Min, there are several points of influence. We even have fake names for our “girls” in our design meetings. And we’re like, “Do we have something for Peyton? Do we have something for Marni?”
LM: Do you have any pre-Fashion Week rituals? JS: I love to have a playlist on repeat so that I feel really comfortable during the presentation and that I feel really familiar with all the songs. And right when I’m stressed out, I can just sing along and know every word. Right now I’m listening to a lot of The Specials and The Beat.
LM: How would you describe your personal style? JS: Usually it’s a black T-shirt and jeans and some dark sweater. And then some Nike Dunks. Although, sometimes I’m just in the mood where I want to mix every crazy print.
LM: What’s next for the label? JS: I want to do a basics program. And I can’t wait to do men’s. I really want to do it. I’m just obsessed with the idea of doing menswear.
Jonathan Simkhai’s Fall 2013 collection debuts Saturday, February 9 at Milk Studios.