In the Woodshop with Brian Shimansky

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All clothing – Greg Lauren. Necklaces – Cartography.

Photographer – Max Papendieck for
Stylist – Gregory Wein | Grooming – Benjamin Thigpen at ABTP (New York) | Model – Brian Shimansky | Stylist’s assistant – Frankie Barone
Set designer – Nicole Watts at ABTP (New York) | Videographer – Aurélien Heilbronn

Eight years ago, Brian Shimansky’s life took a sharp and unexpected turn, and he has John Mayer to thank for that. Then a recent college graduate, Shimansky was all set to start a business advisory job in the fall of 2008, looking ahead to a life of weeks on the road shuttling between offices, when he was scouted at a Mayer concert and decided to go all in. “About a week after that, I met Jason Kanner [then at Major Models, now of Soul Artist Management (New York)], he immediately said yes, and I never looked back from there,” Shimansky recalls.

Shimansky quickly picked up attention from major photographers like Mario Testino, Milan Vukmirovic, and Giampaolo Sgura, and went on to become a favorite of Bruce Weber and Steven Klein. In 2012, he booked a fragrance campaign, the industry’s peak, for Versace Eros shot by Mert & Marcus, a moment of validation that made the risk he took all those years ago really worth it. “I sat in Jason’s office in 2008 thinking, ‘Ok, I’m giving up a serious salary to pursue this complete uncertainty,’” Shimansky says. “I knew as well as he did there’s no guarantee. You’ve got to work hard, put in the time, be patient, and trust the process. Four years of doing that released when I got the call that it was going to be used.”


Left: All clothing – Dolce & Gabbana. | Right: Tuxedo – Ravazzolo. Shirt – Eton. Tie – Lanvin. Pocket square – The Tie Bar. Lapel pin – Cartography.

With his place in the modeling world secured, Shimansky has lately been turning his attention to an old passion, woodworking. An avid fan of construction toys like Legos and Lincoln Logs from a young age, he discovered the woodshop in high school in suburban New Jersey, where he would put in hours every week making projects from baskets and cutting boards up to benches, minibars, and even a foosball table.

His hobby has turned more professional recently with the establishment of Shimansky Design, his personal design and construction studio which offers everything from built-in shelving to standalone furniture, including all the tables and benches shot here. “I have a need to just stay busy and work with my hands,” he says.

Shimansky approaches his designs organically, often working with salvaged wood—oak flooring from an apartment renovation, shelving from a defunct store, discarded desks and drawers—or with leftover lumber from tree disposal companies. “I put everything aside in my garage in my little brainstorm pile that I go to when I have projects,” he explains.

Currently working mostly on commission, Shimansky does almost all the construction work himself by hand, keeping a focus on the individual aspects of each piece of wood he works with. Metal components are a common feature in his designs, giving them an industrial feel along with a sturdiness that he says many pieces can lack. His business has grown through word-of-mouth and, of course, social media, where pictures of his products can often lead to new customers.

For Shimansky, his carpentry offers the perfect complement to his modeling career, a meaningful project that he can work on during his own time and by his own sometimes-hectic schedule. He sees room to expand, however, and says that even a major dream project—say, fifty tables for a boutique hotel—would still be manageable on his own. And there is a part of Shimansky that, perhaps, might even want to keep the work all to himself. “If I’m not getting blisters on my hands,” he says, “I don’t feel like I’m fulfilled.”

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All clothing – Dolce & Gabbana.


Left: All clothing – Versace. | Right: All clothing – Zachary Prell. Sneakers – To Boot New York. Lapel pins – Cartography.

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