Jeffrey Kalinsky, our resident designer authority, fills us in on his style inspiration, industry mentors, favorite fall shows and more:
Who are your style idols?
The Rat Pack, James Dean, Jack Kennedy. I like the whole late ’50s/early ’60s clean, classic look. If you were wearing a suit, the lapel was narrow, the jacket was fitted and the pants were straight. I also like the idea of jeans and a white T-shirt. There was nothing tricky.
How has this affected your style?
When I need to look nicer than a T-shirt and jeans afford, I wear a fitted blue button-down shirt. I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, and was very preppy. As an adult, I wanted to stand out and not be so conventional, but I’m still rooted in my preppy upbringing.
How are you not conventional?
I’m in a vintage T-shirt every day. And I only wear white socks, like they did in 1959. When you’ve got a pair of white socks on with your navy suit, some people think that’s unconventional, yet it’s rooted in something very classic.
Where do you get your vintage T-shirts?
Wherever I can find them. It’s always a treasure hunt. My friend Philomena gave me one of my favorites—it’s a heather gray T-shirt that says, “Bakersfield High School.” I’m also partial to light-blue ringer tees.
How is your closet organized?
By classification. I have all of my jeans in one place. I have all of my sweaters in one place. I have all of my T-shirts in one place. I have all of my shorts in one place.
How did growing up in Charleston influence you?
It shaped me in every which way—my style, personality and ethics. It’s an ultra-preppy city that’s absolutely beautiful. I love the way people embrace color there and dress conservatively in that chic kind of way.
Do you go back very often?
Yeah, like two times a year. But it’s always in my heart.
You worked in your father’s shoe store as a kid. What was that like?
My best memory is that I was not allowed to “walk” a customer, which meant letting a customer leave without buying something. That was a lot of pressure for a teenage boy. It gave me performance anxiety. If I was waiting on you and was going to “walk” you, I was supposed to tell you to stay put and not leave because I was going to get my daddy. The thought of that was beyond embarrassing.
But you stayed in the business.
I actually found my love of selling when I went to college and worked for other people, selling part-time. I saw that I was good at it but had to find that out for myself, which I couldn’t do under my father’s thumb.
Who are some of your mentors in the industry?
When I was first starting out, I worked for Donna Karan and learned so much about the relationship between a woman’s clothing and her accessories. Donna was so passionate about providing clothing for a woman by a woman. I also had a close relationship with Stuart Weitzman in the ’90s. He taught me to really believe in myself, which was invaluable.
Tell me about a person you admire.
Probably the most inspirational person I can think of is Steve Jobs. I loved how he saw the future. I believe in staying true to a vision and hoping people want to be a part of it. I love that he did that in an uncompromising way, because every time we compromise, we dumb something down.
How about a brand you admire?
The brand that always seems to stay at the top is Chanel. Karl Lagerfeld has a real curiosity about popular culture. He’s very tuned in and connected to everything, so he’s had tremendous success in keeping the brand relevant to customers of all ages.
When was the last time you were starstruck?
I met Emma Stone recently and I think she’s fabulous, so I didn’t know what to say. The same night, I was seated for dinner next to Gwendoline Christie, who plays Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones. Her character is very masculine and tough, but in person, she’s so beautiful and feminine and the opposite of the character she plays. I fell in love with her.
What were your favorite shows for fall 2013?
Junya Watanabe, Céline and Givenchy. The collection and show at Givenchy were just amazing. It was in this huge setting, with the models walking in a big circle and Antony Hegarty [of Antony and the Johnsons] singing live.
Where do you like to vacation?
I love going to the south of France.
What do you do when you’re there?
Sounds perfect. What TV shows have you been enjoying lately?
Mad Men, The Newsroom, Game of Thones, Homeland. I started watching The West Wing recently. That might be my favorite thing to watch right now.
Last but not least, what’s your favorite guilty-pleasure snack?
[Photo Credit: Emma Stone image from Zonters.com]