Potter and home furnishings designer Jonathan Adler is bringing his signature brand of “happy chic” to the world of fashion, with a new line of men’s and women’s accessories landing now in his boutiques, including the ones in L.A. and Orange County. Colorful scarves, ties, hats, bags and belts, priced from $38 to $398, incorporate whimsical design motifs such as birds and Greek keys taken from his home accessories line and have the pimped-out preppy vibe of his interiors at the Parker Palm Springs Hotel and elsewhere.
I caught up recently with Adler to chat about the new collection.
You have dabbled in the fashion realm before, with needlepoint totes and eyeglasses cases in your own stores and collaborations with Lacoste and Seven for All Mankind Jeans. So this has been kind of an evolution, right?
I wish I could claim to be strategic. I’m not, I’m more intuitive. It just kind of made sense to me, and I was interested in doing it.
Why fashion accessories?
Women’s accessories make my chakras tingle. They are a compact opportunity to present design and to hit all my interests of form, texture, color and craft. When I was first starting out as a potter in college in the late 1980s, I made teapots and urns inspired by Chanel, which had quilting and gold details. It was an art project, but it reflected my interest in fashion. And making accessories is really not so different from making a pot and a pillow; it brings all my skills together.
And what is a purse really but a pot that you can carry around?
According to Freud, it’s a symbol for something else too.
Do themes carry over from your pottery and home décor to these fashion accessories?
Yes, I took some of my favorite patterns and brought them to the handbags and put the bird print on scarves, which is very cute.
But it’s not all about print, right? It’s also about form. I’m looking at the Reina Hex satchel, which is kind of a leather polygon.
That comes from my sculptural interest in pottery. We have a new bag coming out for fall that’s literally inspired by a chair I designed, the Whitaker chair. Some pieces are about creating great vehicles for color and pattern, others are more about a sculptural exploration. But I hope they are all are accessible, which is something that is very important to me — unimpeachable luxury.
I love the WASPy country club chic of some of the items, the straw visors, for example, and the Pat Nixon necktie.
WASPs have an insouciant love of color and a carefree chic, and Jews take it and make it even better. That’s how we roll.
I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but some of the men’s ties are so bad they’re good.
There are some great 1970s colors on the neckties, browns and mustards. Others are more crisp and optimistic. But they do have a good throwback look.
Which is great because whenever you try to buy a vintage tie, they’re so gross and nasty. So what’s next? Will you be having a Jonathan Adler runway show soon?
Oh my god, that sounds bigger than I want. But I would never say never to anything. I enjoy designing stuff. That’s what I do all day long. The more I get to do, the more I want to do.
How do you record your ideas? IPhone? Sketchbook?
I’m such a Luddite, I have a BlackBerry. But I’m constantly sketching, emailing and talking, I work a lot. We design everything in the studio. Simon [Simon Doonan, Adler’s husband] has referred to my studio as “the fantasy factory” and I think that description works.
Does Simon, who of course has been in the fashion biz for years at Barneys New York, help out?
He’s an interested and supportive observer. We’ve been together so long, we just communicate via grunt at this point. We don’t come home and talk and scheme.
You’re on the way to creating a whole Jonathan Adler universe. What’s your dream design project?
I want to design a car. It would be the ultimate expression of everything we do.