mom would bring all of her friends over to shop and buy my clothes. She still does!
How has life changed since you received the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Award last year? It was an amazing experience and a dream come true for me. It provided the Jonathan Simkhai brand with fantastic exposure, as well as strong support from the fashion industry as a whole. Each season I try to move the brand forward and push myself creatively while at the same time remaining true to the brand’s DNA—creating beautiful clothing of impeccable quality and craftsmanship. It is a very special feeling to be recognized for something that I love to do.
Let’s talk about your beautiful clothing! What can we expect from your fall 2016 collection? I am always inspired by architecture. The structures
OWN WORDS WE CAUGHT UP WITH JONATHAN SIMKHAI TO TALK INSPIRATION, ACCOLADES AND WHAT’S NEXT FROM HIS EPONYMOUS CLOTHING LINE.
Why did you decide to end your formal education and focus instead on gaining real-world experience? I briefly attended design school at both Parsons and FIT before deciding to launch my own brand; so while I do have some formal design training, I have always learned best by doing. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, who have instilled that spirit in me. My early retail experience provided me with invaluable insight into the bigger picture by giving me the opportunity to work directly with customers and learn what women really desired from their clothing. When I was launching the Jonathan Simkhai brand years later [in 2010], I was able to make informed decisions based on what I had learned as a womenswear buyer. Having formal design training is very helpful, of course, but it’s not the only path. Everyone should do what feels right for them.
Who are some of your mentors? I feel incredibly lucky to say that I have a tremendous support system. Michael Kors became my mentor through the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Having the opportunity to consult with an overwhelmingly successful and influential fashion designer is a true blessing. In life, my parents have always been such pillars of support. When I first launched the brand, my
that Santiago Calatrava creates are feats of both design and construction. Not only that, Calatrava thinks about and addresses every last detail, from the amount of natural light to the overall aesthetics of his structures. I have been familiar with his work for many years; but for this collection, I was particularly inspired by his bridges, because they are a balance of sleekness and strength. Each custom lace fabric was inspired by different design elements from these structures.
Tell us about the process of designing your own fabrics. Why is this so important to you? The fabrics are crucial to each collection. All are customized, whether it’s a custom color or completely original artwork. We always start with a concept, and then we gather a few basic motifs to expand on so that everything in the collection is of the same continuous theme. We tend to lean toward novelty fabrics and love finding new techniques to experiment with. Lace fabrics are so important to me because of the wide range of creative possibilities they offer—from creating different textures to cutting incredibly intricate designs. My family heritage plays a big part of it, as well. My grandfather owned a lace and embroidery factory in Iran in the 1970s, so I have always been surrounded by and exposed to this part of the fashion industry.
How do you want a woman to feel in your designs? I want every woman to feel like her best and most beautiful self. Confidence is key.