Lets go back in time for a second to our high school years. Spring has arrived and the sun is shining. The bell just rang dismissing students for the day and everyone shuffles out the door feeling free and rejuvenated. Some students have changed into their sports uniforms running onto fields for practice and others are huddled in circles with backpacks gossiping and laughing. The one commonality among them all is a feel good, carefree mentality.This mentality is exactly what the New York-based, womens apparel designer, Jonathan Simkhai, strives to embody in his collections. If school bells had sounded at the onset of our interview session with Jonathan we would not have been surprised. I absolutely loved high school, he told us. He could spend all day at class, hanging out with friends and, come home to dinner on the table from my mom--it was such a stress-free lifestyle. His past memories as a student have inspired his collections, from the skirt whose pattern is influenced by an old black/white composition notebook to a maxi dress blocked with referee stripes.Jonathan Simkhai, who was raised in Westchester, NY and studied at Parsons and FIT, always knew he wanted to be a designer. As he shuffled through the racks of his collection he pulled out a sweater and his voice shifted from that of a designer to a storyteller. "This was inspired by an old high school sweater," Jonathan said, "It's about the girl who goes on a ski trip with her girlfriends and meets this crush and they spend the entire time together...all the while she is wearing this sweater." Sounds like a pretty perfect Alpine adventure!Jonathan admitted, "There is just something so sexy about a girl in an oversized football jersey." Taking this idea, he pictures the same girl wearing a jersey semi tucked into shorts with a leather jacket and sneakers. However, "That look could get crazy to some people," he said, "So I try to simplify that vision and make it wearable." Of course as he grows up so do his collections. In the midst of his fifth collection, which he launched in 2010, his style is maturing.While his "girl" is playful and casual, she is also fashion conscious. In recent collections he has modernized his look. Whereas he previously saw his girl wearing a feminine dress with a pair of Vans sneakers, there is now room for dressier footwear like loafers or heels. There is more flexibility to mix and match depending on his customer's unique lifestyle. "Everything in this [Fall 2012] collection has two or three things that go back to it, whether a shirt or jacket or pants," he said. There is certainly something for everyone.
So what is Jonathans mission for his brand? As a new designer he would like to be in the closets of as many girls as he can. He is off to a great start with product in Fred Segal, Barney's New York, and Treasure & Bond. His New York home base helps keep him competitive on the shelves of those stores. "Innovation is evident all over the world," Jonathan noted, "but New York is different in that people from all over the world come here to share their ideas." Everyone is up to something interesting and creative and that challenges you to constantly perform to the best of your abilities. On the grading scale we would surely give Jonathan an A+!