Fun on his mind
American designer Jonathan Adler provides a touch of kitsch to the preppy Lacoste polo.
JONATHAN Adler is all huge smiles and sparkling eyes as he strolls in for our interview. The American home furnishings and interior designer is undeniably preppy and boyishly handsome in a Lacoste polo shirt, upturned jeans and sneakers.
Despite a long flight from the United States and a whirlwind few days of events and interviews in Tokyo, Japan, Adler is warm and friendly, even asking enthusiastically about Malaysia. Really, he is a walking poster boy for his own design aesthetic, a vivacious, contemporary yet timeless style he dubs “happy chic”, that incorporates vibrant colours, funky motifs and a decidedly quirky sensibility.
“But I’m not at all a happy person!” wails Adler when asked if “happy chic” is a reflection of who he is. “In fact, most of the time I’m grumpy and miserable!”
What does make him happy (besides his partner Simon Doonan and their Norwich terrier Liberace), is working with his all-time favourite fashion brand (he’s worn it since he was 10!), Lacoste. So when he was offered the chance to create the label’s sixth Holiday Collector’s Series, it is safe to say Adler was pretty much over the moon.
“Are you kidding? When they contacted me, I was like a kid who was given an ice-cream truck! I’m Lacoste’s biggest fan! So of course I leapt at the opportunity,” he shares during our chat, after the Holiday Collector’s Series launch in Tokyo.
The Series is an annual tradition that began six years ago, where a guest designer from outside the fashion industry is invited to reimagine the iconic Lacoste polo shirt, complete with packaging, by imbuing it with their own design sensibilities.
With his reputation for impeccable craftmanship and a unique sense of design, not to mention his passion for Lacoste, Adler seems like the perfect choice. Starting off as a potter 18 years ago, the 45year-old currently heads an international design company offering furnishings and decorative accessories, all featuring his signature combination of Modernist forms, bold colours and groovy graphics. Bringing together elements like the optimism of mid-century design and the kitschy colours of pop art, Adler’s
“happy chic” concept is built on the belief that your home should make you happy, and happiness is chic.
His cheeky motto? “If your heirs won’t fight over it, we won’t make it.”
A highly sought-after interior designer, Adler has worked on prestigious projects like the Parker Palm Springs Hotel, as well as the retro-glam interior of the “real” Malibu Dream House for Barbie’s 50th anniversary.
His beginnings as a craftsman, however, continue to colour everything he does, and to this day, most of his products incorporate traditional crafts like ceramics, brass and needlepoint, albeit with a contemporary twist. And when he started thinking about his Holiday Collector’s Series, something about the nostalgia of these crafts immediately connected with Lacoste.
“When I think of Lacoste, I think of the American, preppy, country club style. And the preppiest of hobbies in the US is needlepoint. The piqué fabric of Lacoste polo shirts, too, have always reminded me of needlepoint. So I decided to take my needlepoint patterns and apply them to the iconic Lacoste logo. What I wanted to do was evoke the nifty, sporty feeling of American country clubs in the 60s,” explains Adler.
Using needlepoint, he adds, also allows him to change the perception of the art as being a “fancy old lady’s pastime”.
“My grandmother used to needlepoint, and as a child, I was always fascinated by the bold and geometric pillows she made. Unfortunately, in the last 20 years, needlepoint has been kind of boring. It used to be about bold patterns and colours, but it’s become about boring beige pillows depicting cocker spaniels. So I decided to go back to the groovy roots of needlepoint.”
When asked if this foray into fashion was challenging, he says, with his signature self-deprecating smile: “Maybe I have an inappropriate sense of hubris, but it was kinda easy. To me, design is design. I’ve always been really, boringly consistent; I just do what I want!”
To bring “happy chic” to the Holiday Collector’s Series, Adler’s idea was to take the iconic immensely familiar Lacoste logo and overlay some of his favourite patterns and colours from his own needlepoint pillows. A diagonal stripe at the bottom of the shirt further integrates colours from the logo and adds a sporty feel.
“The great thing about doing this project is that it gave me a lot of room to play around. With something as iconic as the Lacoste crocodile logo, you can do a lot of things and people will still recognise it,” says Adler.
The result is three different types of polo shirts within the series, each
american designer Jonathan adler has brought his signature ‘happy Chic’ aesthetic to the Lacoste holiday Collector’s Series #6. ‘When I think of Lacoste, I think of the american, preppy, country club style. What I wanted to do was evoke the nifty, sporty feeling of american country clubs in the 60s,’ says adler.
The Special edition green polo shirt for men.
The Special edition pink polo shirt for women.
The Limited edition pink polo shirt for women from Jonathan adler’s Lacoste holiday Collector’s Series #6, featuring an oversized crocodile logo and matching side stripes done in needlepoint.