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Inside Jonathan Simkhai’s Rebrand

After over a decade in business, the brand will now only be known as “Simkhai” in an effort to appeal to international audiences
Jonathan Simkhai will present his Fall/Winter 2023 collection at New York Fashion Week on Friday.
Jonathan Simkhai will present his Fall/Winter 2023 collection at New York Fashion Week on Friday. (Courtesy Simkhai)

Jonathan Simkhai is giving his brand the Madonna treatment.

The Los Angeles-based designer is dropping his first name from his nearly 13-year-old label as part of a wider rebrand. From now on, it’s just “Simkhai.”

The decision came amid a strong run for the brand, known for its garments like draped dresses, womenswear with a menswear influence and subtle embellishments like sequins and fringe. Sales rose 53 percent last year to $55 million, while in 2021 sales grew 100 percent to $36 million from $18 million in 2020. Now, Simkhai is looking to add new categories (bags launched in 2019) and grow overseas. The shorter, simpler name, which appears in a revamped logo in bold, sans serif typeface, will be easier for consumers in new markets to recognise and remember, the designer said.

“We’ve been thinking about how we can create a lifestyle brand and better impact the international market,” he said. “[We wanted] a brand name that would be easy to pronounce globally, and is short, concise and effective.”

Simkhai launched his label in 2010 after spending the earlier years of his career working in merchandising and buying at a boutique in his native Westchester, New York. He won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2015, and first showed at New York Fashion Week that same year. His profile has only grown since: Simkhai has dressed a long list of celebrities, from Michelle Obama to Hailey Bieber to Sandra Bullock.

The label, which relocated to Los Angeles from Simkhai’s native New York in 2018, is carried by stockists including Net-a-Porter, Bergdorf Goodman, Moda Operandi and Revolve, where buying director Cori French said that consumers gravitate towards his feminine details; eye-catching gowns; staple items like knits and faux leather jackets; and newer categories such as swim and resortwear.

“Jonathan Simkhai offers classic silhouettes with a twist, and it’s been great to see him playing with more embellishments and textures and unique stones to set those apart,” said French.

International expansion is a priority, but also ramping up direct-to-consumer channels at home. Simkhai operates its own e-commerce website and brick-and-mortar stores in Beverly Hills and Soho in New York City. This year, it’ll open up a third store in Dallas, and is scouting locations in other cities, like Miami. At its runway show on Friday in New York, the brand will debut a collaboration with tights and intimates brand Wolford. And after years of contemplation, menswear, as well, is on the horizon for the brand.

Simkhai said he also wants to create “more storytelling and more experiential connection with the brand,” pulling back the curtain to give consumers a greater sense of the people behind the brand beyond Simkhai himself as well as the label’s processes. He wants to take advantage of the brand’s Los Angeles headquarters to tap further into the entertainment industry, dressing more stars for award shows and other red carpet events. He’s recently signed with CAA and will work with the agency on more personal appearances.

But product quality, he said, and continuing a dialogue with consumers about what items they like and want to see more of both in-store and online, he added, will continue to drive the brand’s overall strategy.

Rolling out a new logo and new brand name is a move that prompts a reaction for any fashion brand, inevitably becoming fodder for social media chatter. But Dieter Hsiao, the co-founder and CEO of Divisa, a digital marketing agency, said that if a brand’s new identity remains consistent with what consumers would expect from a brand, and is clearly communicated and explained through posts on social media, emails and the website, it can be a propelling force for a brand.

And while the Simkhai brand is undoubtedly entering a new chapter, Simkhai insists it’s not a complete evolution. Rather, it’s a “zeroing in” on what the brand does best.

“We are not trying to alienate or abandon a customer that has been loyal to us,” said Simkhai. “But we are continuing to explore other categories like tailoring and kicking up this unapologetic spirit, focusing more on craftsmanship and detail, being more strategic with distribution and working with the best partners, to make sure the brand feels elevated and strategically placed.”

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