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Jonathan Skow, designer, photographer and Trina Turk label co-founder, dies at 55

Jonathan Skow, designer, photographer and Trina Turk label co-founder, dies at 55
Jonathan Skow, wearing his trademark glasses that were as bold and outsize as his personality. The photographer-turned-fashion-designer died on Friday at age 55, a month after a bodysurfing accident in Hawaii left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. (Trina Turk)

Jonathan D. Skow, a stylist-turned-photographer-turned-designer and half the fashion-industry power couple that founded the Trina Turk label in 1995, died Oct. 12 in Los Angeles, weeks after suffering a paralyzing spinal-cord injury while bodysurfing in Hawaii during Labor Day weekend. He was 55.

His death was confirmed Monday by his wife, Trina Turk.

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Skow was born Dec. 22, 1962, in Seattle to Harold and Barbara Skow. He attended Issaquah Senior High School in Issaquah, Wash., and later the University of Washington, where he graduated with a degree in marketing. It was there, in a 1981 textile science class, that Skow crossed paths with Trina Turk, a kindred spirit who would become the warp to his weft in the fabric of both life and career. The two married in 1985.

That was the same year the duo moved to Los Angeles, where Skow worked for 12 years as a fashion stylist before transitioning to fashion and advertising photography. In 2008, he decided to channel his colorful, boisterous personality into the Trina Turk apparel company on a full-time basis, focusing on the dapper Mr. Turk menswear line, which he created and was long associated with.

Gregarious and outgoing, Skow was an exclamation point of a man who authentically embodied the colorful California style of the clothes he designed — and wore — almost always with the chunky, outsized eyeglasses that became his sartorial signature.

“Jonathan successfully extracted that sort of ’60s exuberance of fashion and style and made it modern and accessible for men of many sizes,” said Cameron Silver, owner of vintage resale store Decades and fashion director of H by Halston, who had known Skow since 1997. “I think what was particularly impressive about their business is that the clothes were all made in the States — and made really well — and he developed all these incredible textiles.

“The clothes he did are so happy,” Silver continued. “I was just reflecting on the clothes of his that I’ve worn. I think I was probably one of the first people to wear some of the menswear when it was first being developed — and every time I wear a piece of Mr. Turk, it just makes people smile.”

In addition to a passion for fashion, Skow and Turk shared a love of Midcentury Modern architecture and were enthusiastic restorers of homes in Los Feliz and Palm Springs, projects that landed them in the pages of magazines and newspapers (including The Times) over the years.

Skow is survived by his wife; his mother; a brother, Nathan Skow; and a sister-in-law, Luanne.

A celebration of Skow’s life is being planned for a future date, according to a statement issued by Skow’s family. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Los Angeles Conservancy (www.laconservancy.org); Palm Springs Modern Committee (psmodcom.org); Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center (www.psmuseum.org); LACMA Decorative Arts and Design Acquisition Committee (DA2) (lacma.org/DA2); the Trident Swim Foundation (www.tridentswimfoundation.org); or ActBlue candidates (secure.actblue.com).

And for anyone whose closet is crammed with the kind of cacophonous color and bold patterns the fashion designer was known for, Silver has an additional — and wholly appropriate — suggestion. “May we all wear some happy prints in his honor,” he said.

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