Jonathan Simkhai Collaborates With Carbon38 for Athleisure Capsule
The designer worn by Rachel McAdams, Anne Hathaway and Kerry Washington launches a workout-friendly 16-piece collection heavily influenced by his runway aesthetic.
Daring womenswear designer Jonathan Simkhai made waves when he shared a three-way tie for the 2015 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize, and he’s about to get more attention, thanks to an innovative new collaboration that marks his debut in the ever-growing athleisure space. His entry into workout wear comes alongside an industry leader, Carbon38, in the form of a 16-piece capsule collection out Tuesday ($125-$495, at Carbon38.com and Robertson Boulevard’s pop-up, open through January).
“With this collection, I want to empower women to lead their active lives in style,” Simkhai tells THR. “I found that my design aesthetic of merging masculine strength and female sensuality paired seamlessly with Carbon38’s technical capabilities,” he says, adding that the resulting chic, versatile activewear represents pieces that women of all body types can use throughout their busy days.
Carbon38 CEO and co-founder Katie Warner Johnson says Simkhai was the perfect partner because, for one, “He’s dressing the modern American woman — with all the inherent contradictions of who she is — and is all about a powerful, feminine, sexy aesthetic, which is what we’re after.” She goes on, “He’s focused on what you wear to dinner, or in the last of the day, and we’re focused on the morning, the first part. To meet in the middle and fill out her entire wardrobe was fun.”
The results of their “combined voices” are assuredly chic and definitely sexy; an air of elegance unifies all the pieces. Much of the collection uses the same black mesh fabric that Simkhai has used in the ready-to-wear line he shows on the runway. Insets on leggings, sports bras and a midnight blue and black fit-and-flare tennis dress are topped with bungeelike corset-style lacing (hand-finished and made, like the entire line, in L.A.) in strategic and seductive spots. Says Warner Johnson, “The devil is in the details. We’re taking spandex to new heights.”
True to form, the pieces are not emblazoned with Simkhai’s name or Carbon38 branding. The only hint of a label is in the form of elastic waistbands (think Calvin Klein, but tonal) with the simple Simkhai logo and one racer-back top with the elastic serving to gather the drapey back. Simkhai’s take on Adidas tearaway pants is the dramatic Tommaso Pant ($350), which features matte black snaps from the hip down the palazzo-style leg to the wide ankle. Warner Johnson suggests them post-SoulCycle or for cocktail hour with the complementary snap-side tank. The Zaha Dress ($385) is a surefire dinner-party hit, done in athletic fabric, and the Fuller top ($195) is like a Lululemon pullover with sheer billowy sleeves fashioned in lightweight windbreaker fabric that recalls Seinfeld’s famous puffy shirt in a more whimsical way.
Not everything could be worn to dinner, however. “What’s a Carbon38 collection without a unitard?” asks Warner Johnson. Simkhai’s version of a dance-inspired fitness catsuit is skintight, with bungee-braided cutouts at the ribs, interlock seaming and a zipper front ($210). For a casual bite, though, the ultrafemme bell-sleeve peplum jacket ($495) tops it off perfectly.