Front Row

New York Fashion Week FW21 – Jonathan Simhkai on Human Connection and Craftsmanship

Hard to hide that Jonathan Simkhai is one of my favorite designers of the NYFW calendar, yet I’m still allowed to stress that this FW21 collection of his, was one of his most intimate and mature in his gleaming career so far. He is resourceful in the use of materials and techniques and imaginative in terms of design. The clothes continue to be fashionable, sensual, and upscale without being out of tune; they definitely respond to the current quest for comfort in quarantine times while nurturing excitement for the future. It will not be fair to continue to analyze what he describes best in his own words:

While thumbing through a coffee table book that was lying around I came across an intimate image taken by the photographer, Tseng Kwong Chi. It was a photo taken in 1983 of Keith Haring’s body painting, “Into 84.” Its complexity, originality, and vulnerability really struck me. I was moved by the connection that Keith had with the choreographer, Bill T. Jones, to create such powerful work using his body and his movement. Then when considering the friendship of Keith and Tseng and the connection they all had while capturing this image, it is in so many ways a celebration of kinship and creating. The handwork and artisanship represented in one image evoked familiarity and connectedness for me. The connectedness that we are all missing these days. This pushed me to think about the human connection we have with clothing and craft and it urged me to develop an increased use of hand workmanship throughout this Fall Winter 2021 collection.

For Fall ’21, I created a custom lace inspired by this infinite maze painted by Haring. This custom lace is used most noticeably in floor-length gowns with a guipure bib, mended scallop, and an irregular chiffon lining at its raw-edged hem. The lace is also seen on the bibs of blouses and the hems of midi-length dresses. The playfulness of fringe and tassel were used, hand-woven and hand-crocheted throughout our knitwear dresses and an oversized knit slip-over cloak. We partnered with Amantani, a family-owned business in Peru, using locally sustainably sourced Royal Alpaca Yarn. We are humbled to have the culture and intricate craftsmanship of this region woven into our knitting. The collection’s desaturated earth-tone color palette had stemmed from an almost inky-black, retro feeling chocolate brown that we found and then challenged ourselves to modernize. These umber shades are juxtaposed with rosebud, lilac, desert rose, and sage.

This Fall season marks the first time we combined multiple fabrications in multiple categories. We are pairing knit with vegan leather, wool ribbed knitwear with washed silk, and suede with cotton crochet. Angularly sliced architectural cutouts are seen at the collar bone and rib cage. These cutouts are emblazoned with irregularly shaped gold-dipped statement jewels, adding elements of allure and intrigue. Plush knit cables are found in shape hugging whole-body dresses, sweaters, and skirting. To accessorize, we are thrilled to debut our handbag collection and collaboration with Aesther Ekme, the Danish goods label. I find myself most inspired creating items that evoke confidence and comfort, as we all wait for the world to reopen and reconnect with one another, with a better understanding of the things that need to change within it.

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