Five Questions for Jeffrey Kalinsky

By Erin Carlson

Jeffrey Kalisnky on cultivating personal style: “Nothing’s right and nothing’s wrong. You is you.”

In the world of fashion, there are “influencers” and there are influencers. Jeffrey Kalinsky is the latter: He’s not camped outside New York Fashion Week with a selfie stick; he’s in the front row, getting photographed alongside the A-list. Kalinsky is the director of designer merchandising at Nordstrom as well as the founder of his namesake Jeffrey boutiques. He’s also a judge on the panel that decides the recipient of the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s coveted Fashion Fund prize. (Among the panelists: Anna Wintour, Eva Chen and Diane von Furstenberg.) Last year, Kalinsky opened his first Jeffrey store on the West Coast, at the Stanford Shopping Mall in Palo Alto. He was on a well-earned end-of-summer break on Fire Island when we asked him to weigh in on the best new trends and more.

What’s on his style radar for the fall? The major story this season, Kalinsky says, is a “return to tailoring for women and men” as seen on Celine’s Fall 2019 runway, where classic Annie Hall trousers, sweaters and statement coats reigned supreme. It almost seemed like a backlash to the look-at-me, color-saturated styles that get attention on Instagram. Looking at trends over-all, Kalinsky emphasizes “slightly longer skirt lengths” for a modern interpretation of the 1970s, knee-length boots, combat boots and animal prints including leopard (and lots of it). “Leopard says something,” he observes. “It makes a certain statement. It’s never out of style; it’s very much in style.”

Which seasonal trends is he avoiding? “I’ve never been thrilled with a lot of ’80s influences. I’m not a huge ‘shoulder’ person.”

Who are his style icons? “I have the typical gay male influences: Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and James Dean,” says Kalinsky, who describes his aesthetic as “modern preppy.” As for designers, he’s into Hedi Slimane, the artistic director of Celine, and the beloved Phoebe Philo, who stepped down from the brand in 2018 and passed the torch to Slimane. “Hedi has totally always spoken to me, and [Philo], I think, has a very modern vision for how a woman should look that also speaks to me. I hope wherever she goes, I’ll be a part of it.

How do you cultivate style? “Try to be very careful about who you let help you,” Kalinsky advises, adding, “Nothing’s right and nothing’s wrong. You is you.”

What’s new at Jeffrey’s Silicon Valley branch? After shopping in downtown San Francisco and Palo Alto, home to some seriously stylish people, Kalinsky saw a need for a specialty store that truly reflects the “sophistication of the area” and its reputation for “art and innovation.” Jeffrey offers a range of apparel for women and men, from dressy to casual, featuring household-name brands such as Prada, Gucci and Chloe as well as trendy designers like Johanna Ortiz and Brandon Maxwell. “We’re a closet for your life,” he says, adding that you’ll even find the right outfit to sport to the grocery store, not to mention “the best skinny jean.”

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