Jonathan Adler On Holiday Decorating, Sex Changes, & Making ‘Swunk’ Happen

A few days ago we had the good fortune of running into the uber-friendly Jonathan Adler at the eBay Holiday Collective showroom. We got to “bro down” (his words) for a bit and chat, and first off, we had to hear all about the collection.

Styleite: What excites you most about doing a collection with eBay? What was fun about it?

Jonathan Adler: Well A, everything. Two, I’m just a big eBay fan and user. I’ve spent so much money on eBay over the years that getting a little bit of that cash back really softens the blow. But on a more serious note, I just like the idea. It’s very democratic, and I’m sort of a populist at heart and I appreciate the fact that they wanted this stuff to be really accessible, but special and affordable.

S: So was that a challenge for you? Was it fun to create something at a different price point?

JA: Well my prices are not that expensive, but it was great. I wanted the stuff to be super-duper cute, which it was, and to kind of be like, you know, it’s the holidays, so there needs to be some twinkle and some sparkle. And I wanted it to be very sweet, with a bit of a punk-rock edge. I said it was like sweet-punk, like “swunk”.

This naturally lead to a discussion about holiday decorating:

S: This collection is all about the holidays, so do you have any sort of like fun holiday traditions that inspire you?

JA: Well it’s funny, my husband Simon [Doonan] and I are both basically Santa’s elves, so by the time the holidays roll around we’re just hagged out and don’t have time to do anything at home. But we do have these two Christmas balls that we got at the Liberace Museum before it closed that we kept in their original packing materials, so when the holidays roll around we put them on either end of the mantle. And then our holiday decor is done, and we head off to Palm Beach for Christmas.

S: Well we wish we could ask you more about your Christmas decorating!

JA: I know, isn’t that terrible? I’m so sorry that I’m not more varsity. I put all my varsity Christmas decorating efforts into my business and at home we’re pretty JV about the whole thing.

We also talked all about the Olympics (Jonathan even told us how he would dress the athletes):

S: So are you a fan of the Olympics? Excited for the opening ceremony?

JA: Huge! I’m so excited. But I think it might be a disaster.

S: Why’s that?

JA: Because it’s all like — it’s really weird, they’re going to have rain clouds, and a self-critique about colonialism — it’s like this bizarre, meta, overly-thought-out opening ceremony that I think is going to end in tears. … It’s all like the history of England but in this really muddled, unclear way. Whereas the Chinese opening ceremony was just pure nationalism, this one’s more like post-colonial guilt. It’s like the post-colonial guilt Olympics, so I can’t wait to see how that plays out! But other than that, I’m just excited because I’m a huge sports fan.

S: So what do you think about the whole Ralph Lauren uniform controversy?

JA: I mean, my honest feeling is, running a business is so complicated, there’s so many moving parts that people make mistakes. They probably just didn’t think it through as much as they should. But you know, they’re busy, they’re doing their best. That’s my feeling, like it’s fine. They’re just doing their best. People examine everything too much. As someone who makes stuff I can tell you it’s so complicated getting merchandise from your brain to manufactured, point A to point B, that you can’t think of everything.

And we couldn’t let have let him go without getting to pick his brain about his home decor staples:

S: But what’s your favorite decorating technique? Or if you were to have one item to put in a home to really make a statement, what do you think it would be?
JA: Wow, that’s a good one. I guess the thing I’m most obsessed with right now is all these groovy brass accessories that I’m making. And I just made this gigantic brass — oh, I know! This gigantic brass peacock table that’s brand new and is really incredible, in my humble opinion. So I think that’s what every house needs. A solid brass table in the shape of a peacock by moi.

S: Absolutely, the staple.

JA: Yeah, it’s a staple! You know, Christmas gift, it’s a great teacher gift, a $4,000 brass peacock cocktail table.

Finally, we wanted to hear what he was craving from the other lines in the collective:

S: So if you were to buy one item for yourself from any other the other designers’ collections, what do you think it would be?
JA: I’m ogling a Billy Reid Satchel. They’re nice, right? I’m ogling them. And what’s the jeweler? Fallon? I’m thinking of getting a sex change just to rock a Fallon necklace.

S: You don’t even need a sex change, just go for it.
JA: Yeah, it would be a bit of a hassle to get a sex change, so maybe I’ll just do it. So that would be my two things. And it’s swunk!

There you have it! Take a look at all the studded-yet-sweet “swunk” home decor below — unlike “fetch”, this might actually happen. You can also see Tibi‘s collection here and Chris Benz‘s collection here.

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