“I WANT TO MAKE THE PIECES THAT WOMEN GO TO FOR A BOLT OF CONFIDENCE,” says designer Jonathan Simkhai from his light-flooded atelier in midtown Manhattan. To wit, Simkhai’s line has attracted a league of pretty young things that include Olivia Palermo, Emily Ratajkowski and Chrissy Teigen who covet his fashion-forward statement pieces that easily straddle the runway and the street. Recently, Simkhai made the foray into athleisure, launching a chic line of leggings, jackets and sports bras flaunting his corseting detailing and peplum silhouettes. It doesn’t hurt to mention that the designer is quite easy on the eyes. Clad in a love-worn A.P.C. navy cardigan, a white t-shirt and jeans, Simkhai is the picture of calm amidst busy market appointments following his raved-about runway show. We caught up with the perennially-fit designer and talked his own well-being during fashion week, how he keeps in tip-top shape and why it’s more important to be a feminist now than ever.
There was no doubt that your latest collection was an homage to strong women. How did you translate that theme into the clothes?
This season more than ever, we really pushed suit dressing back though the strong shoulder, the monochromatic color palette and the length of the silhouette so that they were essentially columns of strength. It was important to have a look that felt put together and strong.
In your own words, who is the Jonathan Simkhai girl?
It’s about women who look to fashion to get excited about their day. For me, there’s days that I know that I have a long list of things to do that aren’t really exciting or fun but then I can throw on my favorite sweatshirt or my favorite pair of jeans and all of a sudden I’m excited to conquer the day.
You recently collaborated with Carbon38 on an activewear line. What interested you in getting involved in workout wear?
Being able to gain trust with the Jonathan Simkhai woman was a big mission for the brand since its inception. We thought about what else can we do for her and get her excited about the brand. If she’s not wearing the ready-to-wear and not wearing a dress to go out, she’s in leggings and a sports bra. She’s working out and she’s active whether she’s picking up her kids from school or going to the park with her friends for a run. She’s on the move. But she wants her leggings and sports bra to have details that are different from anything else out there and that are unique. She pays attention to the extra lace-up or grommeting.
How do you stay grounded and healthy during fashion week?
For me, it’s about working out in the morning. I like to go to the gym first thing. I go to Equinox it’s right across from my apartment. Also, long showers. You can delete anything that’s been bombarding your mind. And with the water simultaneously running through your hair, it’s a great cleanse. It’s not just hygiene but also mental hygiene.
You recently launched Swimkhai, your swimwear line. What do you do personally to get ready for beach shape?
I’ve been loving Soul Cycle. I took the employees to Soul Cycle for a company ride. It was really fun. A lot of them still go with colleagues. I also love Pilates on a reformer. I work with a trainer at the Equinox on Greenwich, her name is Vilma. She is a genius when it comes to the body. She knows all about lengthening, core strengthening and all those little muscles that you don’t usually work on during normal gym workouts.
What are your go to foods when you want to eat healthy and clean?
Salad with grilled chicken, juice, lentils, salmon and watercress.
What are some of your favorite healthy restaurants?
Nourish Kitchen & Table, 12 Chairs and Sugarfish.
Both your parents are Israeli. Did they instill in you a certain philosophy when it came to food and eating?
No matter what we always had a really nice salad at the table with lots of greens. Also cauliflower was something my parents would put in the oven with olive oil, paprika and salt and pepper. So instead of having a roast chicken, we’d have a roast cauliflower. It’s delicious.
How has your recent move to LA influenced your health regimen?
I’ve been hiking a lot at Runyon Canyon.
At your latest show, you gifted editors with t-shirts that read Feminist AF and donated funds to Planned Parenthood. Why is it important more than ever to be a feminist whether you are male or female?
It really came close to home because growing up when we had personal health issues, my best friends and myself, Planned Parenthood was the place you could go get an STD screening without telling your parents. Now you are at risk for not addressing those issues because you’re living in fear. So many of my peers growing up went to Planned Parenthood for basic healthcare. There’s no other place they could have gone to for those things and the fact that that is on the line just felt very scary to me. I just wanted to spread the message in any way that I could and it felt like this is the one thing I could do.