Jonathan Simkhai Talks Life Post-CFDA Incubator and Not Calling Resort 'Resort'

The designer is now out in the world, and he seems to be doing pretty well.
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Dhani Mau
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The designer is now out in the world, and he seems to be doing pretty well.
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Jonathan Simkhai is calling his resort collection "Transition One." His decision to do so reflects how a lot of designers seem to feel about resort or "cruise," as brands like Chanel and Dior like to call it, which is, that it's a little outdated. "Even the most luxury consumer, I don't know if they're going on a cruise," said Simkhai at his studio during a lookbook photo shoot for his cool, vaguely athletic, not-resort collection.

"We're showing these really modern collections and we're trying to dress a cool girl and 'resort' just isn't current." Simkhai says he tries to relate to his customer as much as possible. 

"I think of it as, it's October November December, I'm in the city, I have holiday parties to go to, I have dates that I'm going on and I want to look cute, I have work meetings to conquer, and I have fall pieces already, so I just want to update my wardrobe, so it's a seasonless type of thing." He calls it Transition One because it's the first transition of the year, from fall to spring. 

Simkhai also stressed that what buyers and customers are looking for isn't necessarily what we think of as resort (swimsuits, caftans, nautical stripes), but that it's more about "buy now, wear now." 

His new focus on making clothes that will actually sell, when they'll actually sell is a result of his two years in the CFDA Incubator, a program through which 10 designers are chosen to take up residence (for which they pay a discounted rate) in a semi-communal space (they have their own individual offices) and are given valuable business mentoring. He and his "class" recently "graduated" and he seems to be doing well. He's just moved into his own space, an upgrade in size from the space he had pre-Incubator, which was a combo of his own apartment and "some space" in his dad's friend's office.

"In the Incubator, they teach you to look at it as a business and as improtant as it is to be designing clothes that are fresh and exciting, it's also important to really know who your customer is and what they're coming to you for," he explained. He also learned how to talk about his clothes: "I spent some time with some mentors...talking about the clothes is important, I'm still not that great it it, being able to communicate, but I think being in the store and talking to the people that are the most important ones, that actually talk to your customer, making sure they know what they're doing, is important."

Unsurprisingly, Simkhai's transitional collection is focused, sellable and filled with easy, sporty, figure-flattering pieces his customers will undoubtedly be pleased with. Click through to see the full collection.

Homepage photo: Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images