Designer and retailing genius Jonathan Adler was in town recently to promote his latest book, 100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that he was here to spread smiles and celebrate the joyfulness that colorful, inspired, modernist design can bring. Either way, he succeeded. No one else can get away with using the words "happy chic" as a verb, but he does, with panache.
I know the happy-thing is a brand, but he's really got it down, and I hope he's as happy as he seems. The new shop (opened a few months ago in the Pearl District) is decked out in holiday decor suited to whatever special winter celebration you choose to follow (which is to say, all of them!). It's definitely not a place for unhappy hipsters.
He's clearly been inspired throughout his life, having picked up the fun modernist style he is known for by growing up with style maven mom and dad in what he calls "Podunktown" (Bridgeton) in southern New Jersey, where his father was from. Even in the boonies, his parents were “groovy modernists” who'd lived in New York City and brought with them their citified tastes and lots of “white Knoll furniture.” His mother, who had worked in New York at Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, filled the house in southern New Jersey with “ebullient color and Marimekko textiles.” Dad was a lawyer but also an artist, thus he could pursue his art however he wanted since he wasn’t making a living from it, Jonathan says. It seems like Adler the younger has managed to do both – pursue a lucrative profession that happens to be the sale of the art that he wants to make in the first place.
Adler is inspired by what he calls his “holy trinity of design: Bonnie Cashin, Alexander Girard, and David Hicks” for their “unique and idiosyncratic aesthetic and style.” His own work speaks clearly of “joyfulness” which he wants to look “effortless, but it takes so much effort.” He takes the joy seriously, so there is more to be spread around. Amen, Mr. Adler.