Inspired by menswear, Jonathan Simkhai’s signature style of strong graphic lines and sporty femininity has quickly garnered attention in the industry. So how better to present his Spring 2014 collection than in the legendary Church Street Boxing gym, styled and modeled by the no-less legendary Hanne Gaby known for her discerning eye and amazing personal style? Models.com’s Janelle Okwodu catches up with the rising design star to discuss his fresh take on the super sexy femme fatale and working with Hanne to bring out the fighter attitude.
Model: Hanne Gaby Odiele
Styling: Hanne Gaby Odiele
Hair: Lacy Redway using Oribe haircare
Makeup: Carolina Dali (See Management) using Chanel
Shot on location at Church Street Boxing
Production: Kegan Webb
Photo Assistants: Dean Podmore, Katie Thompson
Intro by Stephan Moskovic
Interview by Janelle Okowodu
The Jonathan Simkhai woman is fearless, confident, cool and chic with a sporty flair. I like to think I have two women- The more uptown classic woman who I push to be more downtown and edgy, and the downtown laid back girl who I push to be more classic and chic. I also like the idea of challenging women to experiment with dressing themselves. I want to get women excited about waking up in the morning and putting together an outfit that gives them the confidence to take on their day and makes them feel good about how they look.
When did you first decide to pursue design?
I’ve always been interested in fashion. When I was in grade school I would convince my mom to let me stay home from school and I would insist on taking her shopping. We would go to the mall and I would just be fascinated by all the clothes. I would go back to school and flatter my teachers on their outfits and call out where they got their blouse or their skirt and they would be super impressed. I never knew what that whole scheme meant for me, but as I got older I realized- I can do this, I can make clothes.
You’ve been showing since 2010; how has your look evolved in that time?
My look has definitely evolved into a more refined, elevated woman. I haven’t strayed far from the “borrowed from the boys” look- but I definitely have offered my girl more sex appeal and more grown up options.
I heard your first job was being a denim buyer at 15! How does knowing the retail side of the business help you as a designer?
I definitely consider myself a designer with a merchandising mind. Whenever I am developing a collection, I am constantly stopping and asking myself, “okay, what stores are buying this? what girl is buying this?” I am constantly merchandising my racks of sample developments and putting myself in the mindset of all the different buyers. As a designer, it really helps me round out my collections and stay true to my girl.
There is an energy in New York and a fearlessness in fashion that is really unmatched. There is always that factor of ‘you never know what you are going to see when you step out the door’ that is really special and inspiring to me as a designer.
How is the experience of being in the CFDA fashion incubator program?
Working with the CFDA fashion incubator program has been amazing. The endless support they have given me has been so valuable to the growth of my business and elevating my design process.
What was it like working on this particular shoot with Hanne?
Hanne was amazing to work with! She has such a rare beauty that comes through so effortlessly in photos. We shot in this enormous underground boxing studio in lower Manhattan. The location was an immense hidden gem with such high energy, which was great for Hanne to feed off of. She really got into the whole idea of the “fighter attitude” of the shoot and brought such a unique feeling to it. Her attitude and openness to try new things brought the shoot to a whole new level. At one point she got into the ring! She brought a lot of cool ideas to the shoot too- she suggested doing cornrows, and it totally brought the look up. The fact that she was styling the looks and modeling them only made it easier- she is truly a pro and a pleasure to work with.
Describe your fall collection for us – the mood / inspirations / etc.
Fall was inspired by the idea of a super sexy femme fatale woman finding a crocodile leather cigar box in a futuristic men’s library. I wanted to create an incredibly confident woman with an air of danger to her. I really focused on textiles and colors for this collection while working off the cigar box, mens suiting and lush textiles found in a men’s study.
Who would you love to dress?
I would love to dress Grace Coddington
Look out for expansion into menswear and accessories in the near future..