WORDS: Yahdon Israel PHOTOGRAPHY: Julien Roubinet
Like many kids who found themselves bored in class, Jonathan Schkolnick would turn to the the back of his notebook, take out is pencil and draw the "S" symbol. He'd draw three identical lines in a row, draw three more lines beneath the top row then connect them until he got the first letter of his last name, "S." Then he'd do it again. And again.
He did it enough until he realized that this wasn't the musings of a bored eight year-old looking to pass the time. This was the endeavor of ambitious child who didn't know how to draw but wanted to leave his mark on the world. One that would endure with time.
We live in a country of reinvention. We didn't invent the wheel but are always looking for new ways to turn it. This analogy can be applied to how Jonathan approaches his own life and career. In 2013, Jonathan started a luxury street wear brand aptly named "High Street NYC" that, within two years time, built an aesthetic so sublime, it caught the attention of another luxury clothing brand Black Pyramid, who courted him to be their Creative Director. Since then he has become the Creative Director for Avawrist, a company which combines fashion and functionality to create wearable technology for the future. Their most recent make: gold and silver bracelets which also charge iPhones.
No matter how much we think we know about ourselves, how much we think we've mastered about our craft, there is always something else to learn. There is always a new way to turn the wheel. Your heart just has to be willing and, in Jonathan's case, your wrist has to be able. We met with Jonathan at Mood Fabrics, here in the city, where he gave us tips on fabrics, talked about his first make and explained why the future is all in the motion of our wrists.
What was the first thing you made?
Growing up I was never an artist by nature, but I was always thinking about ways to show that I was creative. This "S" was the only thing I really knew how to make. Plus it was the first letter of my last name so I'd just keep doing it over and over until I perfected it. This was when life so easy and there were no real cares in the world because I was a kid.
Getting a bit older I'm realizing that doing the things that once came so natural as a kid are a lot more difficult when you have bills, and investors, and all the other things that being an adult comes with. Like this "S." I had to remind myself how to do this.
What do you make?
For the most part I make high end street wear. At one point in my life, I think it was more about sneakers and I wanted to create and design sneakers and but then it developed into designing clothes.
But I’m always looking for the link between fashion and functionality. Clothing is a technology because it adapts and changes with the times. I'm interested in finding ways to "update" or improve the technology. So before I even ask the question of what's fashionable I ask, "What's functional? What will actually live beyond the moment I make it?"
I reference a lot of culture in my clothing because I want people to see how fashion is always pulling from the past to push us into the future.
Why do you make what you make?
I'm gonna be honest, I make clothing for me. In an interesting way it helps me connect with other people because I know that there's a genuine interest in what I make and who I am as person. It shows we share a mutual interest. That if they have the opportunity, if they decided they wanted to create clothing, their clothing would look something like this, and it makes you feel like you're part of like a community.
How do you decide what you want to create?
I'm interested in building off of classic things. I like to think about things in our culture that are timeless and figuring out ways to reinvent the conversation to see if what I'm doing now has the possibility of being here tomorrow.
So many things I thought were good ideas stayed ideas because they weren't practical. The one thing I keep seeing in classic products is practicality. It's not enough for something to be cool. It has to serve a purpose.
What's the last thing you made?
The Avawrist bracelet. It's fashion bracelet which also serves as a USB cord to charge your phone. This where my love for fashion and technology meet. I wanted to create wearable technology when I first started designing clothing, three years ago, but it just wasn't as attainable then. Plus I didn't have a product that was filling a void in the market. The best businesses are started by people who find ways to solve the problems many people have but few can figure out.
I'd see people bringing their iPhone cords with them, hanging them around their neck, putting it in their pocket, it being all cluttered in their bags; people forgetting it places and I was just like, "How can I create a charger that people will be able to incorporate into their daily lives that's intuitive but also convenient?"
This bracelet bridges the gap between fashion and functionality. We're working on making the bracelet the power source itself but the first challenge was making a bracelet that people would want to wear.
What is one of the most important things you do to continue to hone your craft, as a maker?
I try to have a bird's eye view of what everybody else is doing. Really just like browsing the web and checking out new and innovative things in technology, architecture, and even nature.
As a maker, what do you wish you would've known sooner ?
I wish I knew the power of politics and relationships sooner. A lot of industries, not just fashion, are comprised of these really tight-knit communities. And, me thinking anything is possible, I focused more of the what you know than figuring out how to connect that to who could help me and who I could help in return.
You really do need to know the right people because business is like a game of chess. You need to be look 2 or 3 moves ahead if you want to make things happen.
What you you feel you need most to continue to do what you do?
Competition makes me work a lot a harder and inspires me to continue chasing my dream because I'm constantly reminded that other people are chasing theirs. You know what I'm saying?
Watching people who are driven by their own internal motor helps me focus on the things that matter like honing my the quality of my designs and getting better at what I do instead of chasing behind what other people are doing. It's taken me some time to realize that life really is a marathon.