Jewish Fashion Designer Showcases Spring Clothes

Ade Jaiye and Jonathan Simkhai | Jennifer Lam

Rittenhouse Row Executive Director Corie Moskow has a dress for her son’s Bar Mitzvah — thanks to a personal styling experience last week with fashion designer Jonathan Simkhai.

During an April 4 event at Joan Shepp, a luxury clothing store co-owned by mother-daughter duo Joan Shepp and Ellen Shepp Weinstein, about 80 people checked out Simkhai’s new collection. Simkhai was visiting Joan Shepp that day, and offered customers the opportunity to have a personal styling experience. He presented pieces from his spring collection, as well as a preview of his fall collection.

Joan Shepp’s house model, Ade Jaiye, also modeled some of the pieces.

“As a designer, I love traveling around the country to meet my customers,” said Simkhai, who is Jewish and a native of Scarsdale, N.Y. “The extraordinary women I encounter always have great taste, and they often have an influence on my designs. Joan Shepp is an incredible store with a unique high fashion aesthetic, so I was especially excited to pay a visit and get to know her clients.”

A graduate from the Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology, the New York-based designer launched his luxury ready-to-wear brand in 2010. Since then, his career has taken off.

Joan Shepp said the store has been a client of Simkhai’s for several years. A few months ago, she encountered him in New York City, where she had a conversation about the advantages of a designer reaching out directly to customers about a collection.

“It’s one thing when we get new clothes, and Ellen or I talk about the new clothes,” Shepp said. “It’s better when the person who lives and sleeps the collection comes and talks about it because when people buy something, they want a reason to buy. More than that, they want the salesperson to know for us, because there’s so many new fabrics, what is this, how is it going to wear, what’s it made out of.”

They decided Simkhai should come to Joan Shepp when his new collection arrived to the store.

Some clients chose not to take the personal styling experience with Simkhai and just shopped through his collection on their own. For those who wanted, though, Simkhai met with them and provided advice based on the client’s tastes and body type. Some of the clients, such as Moskow, came looking for clothes for specific occasions.

Because Simkhai is a newer and more modern designer, Joan Shepp Digital Marketing Strategist Jennifer Lam said the event attracted a lot of new customers.

They included students from the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University in search of graduation outfits.

Joan Shepp also has an upcoming personal styling experience on April 13 and 14 with Spinelli Kilcollin founder Yves Spinelli.

“[Simkhai] is just amazing,” Shepp said. “He is very low-key, very talented and very organized. It was just a pleasure. He sent us flowers, and the clothes were outstanding — just beautiful, feminine clothes.”

Simkhai’s spring collection features a range of lace dresses and crochet-inspired knitwear.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a trend, but I always love reliable pieces designed with a twist, like a lace blouse with interesting sleeve details or a macrame knit dress with a pleated silk hem,” Simkhai said. “It’s those little details and textures that really elevate a look.”

In contrast, he said, summer fashion is all about effortless ease, for which he prefers structured pieces with sharp silhouettes, like a pinstripe basque jacket or a matte jacquard peplum knit.

Shepp said the clothes, which she described as young and feminine, fill a gap at the store. For her, the pieces that stood out include a jacket with hooks from the fall collection, as well as the intricate knitting designs on some of the pieces.

Simkhai said the customers there favored the edgier pieces, a sign of just how fashion-forward they are.

“Honestly, I was blown away by the energy in the store from both the sales associates and the customers,” Simkhai said. “The environment there is so special and inspiring. When you’re with people who are really into fashion, the conversation always goes to what we’re captivated by at the moment and what’s next for the coming season.”

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