Just nine years ago, the fashion world was introduced to designer Jonathan Simkhai. His ready-to-wear collection plays with the tension of feminine strength and sensuality with customized fabrics, romantic detailing, linear lines, and a contoured silhouette. Early on, he took part in the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), a fashion incubator program where he developed his eye for quality of craft. His talent and modern take were noticed, and Simkhai became the recipient of the 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund.
Simkhai continues to redefine the 21st-century wardrobe and reinvigorate American fashion. In 2018, he made the move from New York to Los Angeles to open a multi-level atelier, showroom, and flagship store. Gentry caught up with Simkhai to discuss fashion, fundraising, and his love of the Bay Area.
Your love for fashion began during those early shopping trips with your mom. What about those moments awakened the designer in you?
As a child, seeing the power of a garment and how dramatically it can add to the confidence of the wearer was magical to me. I saw women, also my mother, overcome with happiness with the items they were trying on. Then, while growing up in New York, my love for fashion began to blossom as I took on my first retail job at 15. From there, I discovered the worlds of styling and design, which led me down the path to launching my label.
When you initially decided to build a brand, what was the one core idea that you wanted to always preserve in the collections?
It was and has always been the idea and importance of celebrating women having complete ownership of their confidence, flirtation, power, and attractiveness.
What is your reaction when you see a woman wearing your clothing out on the streets?
After almost 10 years, I still introduce myself every time I see someone wearing something I designed. Few things make me happier than getting to know the women who shop my collection. I owe them everything.
Can you tell us about your experience in the CFDA (Fashion Incubator) program?
I will always have the fondest regards toward the CFDA, their support from the earliest of stages, and their Incubator program. Not only did it lead me to the Vogue Fashion Fund, but the mentorship allowed me to grow my business globally, expand into additional categories, and surround myself with creative people.
When designing for a woman, where does the pen gravitate to first?
The waistline—visualizing how the garment will fall and contour the woman’s body.
Besides the amazing weather, why move from New York to Los Angeles?
Los Angeles has always been a dream of mine. The laurel greens, mountains, ocean air, sunshine, and road trips have always inspired me. To be able to call California home had always seemed a long shot, but to now call it a reality—while also having my first retail space open here in West Hollywood—is the dream come true.
As the brand approaches its 10-year anniversary, what do you see in its future?
Opening more retail concepts, expanding into additional categories, and continuing to grow our e-commerce business.
You are partnering with PARCA for their annual Luncheon and Fashion show on May 15. What are you looking forward to most about the event?
I am most looking forward to just being a part of the event and witnessing firsthand this organization’s commitments to lifting up those around them. Can’t wait to meet these remarkable individuals and the remarkable women and men who devote their lives to enrich those around them.
You have had a lovely relationship with Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury for a while now. Can you explain the importance of building and preserving a relationship with chic boutiques like this?
The support of specialty stores, especially Sam’s, is one of the reasons I have been able to grow my business and expand into new categories. The importance of having this type of relationship is that it speaks directly to the local community, and that’s among the most invaluable of opportunities.
Jonathan Simkhai’s collections are available at Sam Malouf Authentic Luxury in Burlingame. | www.sammalouf.com