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Jonathan Simkhai: Women are Looking for Reasons to Dress Up Again

New York Fashion Week favorite, Jonathan Simkhai, took his first live show after the pandemic ‘pause’ to sunny Miami. A born and raised New Yorker who designs his own fabrics, Simkhai is known for timeless clothing with the perfect amount of tension between sensuality and feminine strength. He moved his creative studio a few years ago to Los Angeles and expanded the brand to an ‘eco-responsible’ direction. I caught up with Simkhai during Miami Swim week to talk about his latest collections, the modern woman’s perspective, the evolution of his aesthetics, and future plans.
Jonathan, congrats on a beautiful Resort 22 collection! What was your inspiration?
For Resort 22 we found ourselves reflecting on the organic curves and landscape of coastal islands. This manifested in the use of prints that mimic these shapes. Our color palette is imagined from the lush palms, ferns, bright sky, and warm rocks of these remote beauties. The collection features sexy, strappy, and bare swim silhouettes that highlight the female form. All of the cover up styles have a flow about them, meant to mimic the ocean breeze, with a range of silhouettes that are easy to style up or down. The trims and details focus on natural geometry; teardrop necklines and swirl tortoise triangles, pulling from shapes we see in nature. Another recurring theme is negative space - using straps and trims to create "the spaces in between" that frame the shape of a woman’s body.
 Who is Jonathan Simkhai woman?
She is a modern woman. She's well versed in fashion, knows what she likes and is in tune with herself. The pandemic definitely brought a fresh perspective to her. She's ready to get back out there and dress like the woman she aspires to be. I find that women are now looking for reasons to dress up again, but it's also important to them to dress practically and comfortably post-pandemic. As we design for the seasons ahead I am taking all of these factors into consideration and designing with the intention to offer fashion with comfort.
What made you decide to take your first live show (after the pandemic ‘pause’) to Miami Swim week? 
The category of swimwear grown significantly since we launched first swimwear collection in 2016 (6 years after the brand was founded). So when the opportunity to show in Miami came up, I knew it was a great fit and the right time to create buzz around swimwear again, in most perfect destination. We do not typically show Swim in presentation format, so I was very excited that we got to be a part of this year's Swim Week lineup.
Foto: Courtesy of Jonathan Simkhai
Foto: Courtesy of Jonathan Simkhai
Foto: Courtesy of Jonathan Simkhai
 
Today you work from Los Angeles, but you started the brand in New York. Take me through the beginning and how it evolved esthetically – from the energy of New York to laid back California.
I launched my label in 2010 and was lucky enough to train within the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund program in New York. Being one of the winners of the Vogue Fashion Fund in 2015 marked a turning point in the brand taking off and we've been going strong ever since. But I’ve always felt a wave of energy and excitement in Los Angeles. The sun and the weather inspire and re-energize me for years. Even though we had to adjust to the time differences as we manufacture a lot in Europe, the move has given me the space to design with a fresh perspective. I'm very proud of how we've evolved since relocating to Los Angeles. I think the overall Simkhai aesthetic has become more modern and simplified.

How did the pandemic change your perspective on design?
The year of the pandemic forced the brand to take a step back and wholeheartedly reevaluate our position and responsibility as a business. We refocused on building an operation that embodies a reflection of human transformation, launching a sustainable line of casuals, putting a big focus on racial equity and female empowerment and honing in on our brand voice. We concentrated on aligning ourselves with creators with similar values and I am prouder than ever of the content we have created over the past few seasons. Now having been changed forever by a year that both stopped time and forced us to look within, I am very optimistic about the future of the brand.

Where will you take the brand next?
I'm really excited for New York Fashion Week this September. New York is our home and I can't wait to be back to show the Spring 22 collection with this fresh perspective. We plan to continue to show in New York and Paris as we always have. And with that I'm ready to explore more international markets and launch new categories in the upcoming years.