5 Questions with Upcoming STLFW Designer Jonathan Simkhai

By Rikki Byrd
In Style

Designer Jonathan Simkhai loves to make women feel powerful. Thinking beyond the simple skirt and dress, Simkhai blurs gender lines in his exciting collection of womenswear that includes everything from monotone separates–perfect for mixing and matching or wearing separately–to brightly colored, attention-grabbing prints. His work has been donned by a list of stars ranging from Kim Kardashian to Taylor Swift, been featured on the covers of Cosmopolitan and Lucky, and TV shows, such as “Hart of Dixie.” It’s no surprise that the retail associate-turned-fashion designer has made his illustrious crawl to the top of the fashion ladder, most recently honored as one of the 30 recent inductees into the CFDA in July. In light of welcoming Simkhai to Saint Louis Fashion Week’s Neiman Marcus Fashion Chat and Presentation on Oct. 9, we chatted with him on his start in the industry and what fashion fanatics can expect to see during his presentation.

Courtesy of Dario Calmese

Courtesy of Dario Calmese

ALIVE: Can you tell us a little bit about how you started in fashion?

Jonathan Simkhai: I started off working in a clothing store when I was 14 years old. I was with one of my friends, and we went into a store in Westchester, and I picked out a bunch of outfits for her. The store owner was watching and said she wanted to offer me a job. I moved from working in the stock room to working on the floor and assisting the buyer. I tried to go to fashion school for a little while (Parsons and FIT), but after a year I dropped out because I just wanted to be back in the store and working with products. It just felt like the right thing to do–giving women confidence and helping them pick out outfits for obstacles and challenges. It was rewarding for me.

ALIVE: When did you transition from working in the stores to actually designing?

JS: My dad and my uncle have an apparel manufacturing company in New York and they asked me to come and help them. I got experience of the production side by working with my family business. After two years, I started working with them full-time. I was very fascinated about the creation of products and by actually making the clothes instead of selling them.

ALIVE: Your collections are known to blur gender lines. Can you explain?

JS: I think that in this day and age, every year we progress and sexuality goes further and further; what was acceptable 10 years ago has changed, and what’s acceptable 10 years from now will change. Boys are playing with more feminine clothes–tighter jeans–and girls, too. I think it’s so fascinating and so forward–not always having to wear a skirt and pants.

ALIVE: What can attendees expect to see at the Neiman Marcus event on Oct. 9?

JS:  The fall/winter collection was inspired by a cigar box that was covered in embossed crocodile. I just thought about this powerful man in his library and having this power and confidence and intellect. I wanted to give women that power. There’s a lot of emphasis on separates; inseparable separates has been a big thing for us. Some pinstripes, crocodile, items similar to cigar boxes that I found while shopping in the West Village.

ALIVE: Now that you have CFDA under your belt, what’s next for Jonathan Simkhai?

JS: Starting to expand the different categories and working with some mentors to help with the expansion to further the offerings. I really want to build a relationship [with my customers] so that they can trust me and continue to come back.

Jonathan Simkhai’s collection is sold at Bergdorf Goodman and NeimanMarcus.com. The event on Oct. 9 will be the first time his clothes will be exclusively available to shop on the Neiman Marcus floor. For more info on purchasing tickets for the Neiman Marcus Fashion Chat and Presentation, visit saintlouisfashionweek.com.

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