Cheerful Chic: Q&A with Jonathan Adler on His New Accessories Line

The home designer opens up about inspiration, iconic style and how he maintains a perpetual smile

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Courtesy Jonathan Adler

Jonathan Adler began designing home goods with a pottery collection for Barneys New York in 1994. Since opening his first eponymous store five years later, he has built an empire of furniture and textiles based on his colorful, mod aesthetic. Now he’s set to launch a line of fashion accessories—300+ handbags, hats, scarves and belts, priced from $48 to $450—at select department stores and his own stores and website. Adler took a moment to chat with TIME about his inspirations and how he manages to be a perpetual optimist.

How did you decide to expand into accessories?

It seemed very logical to me, and also intuitive. I have a very diverse and unexpected design career that has really expanded based purely on whim. I think that accessories present a lot of the same design challenges that I’m accustomed to working with, and it just felt right.

What was your inspiration for this line?

I always want everything to have a spirit of jetset glamour. I feel like my mission in life is to bring style, craft and joy to people’s lives, and to remind people to always embrace a more glamorous option.

Which of the accessories will you be sporting yourself?

It is definitely a women’s accessory collection—but I think the jute pouches are pretty irresistible. I think the jute pouch with the men’s brogue on it will definitely be containing a lot of my bits and bobs.

Jonathan Adler, NYC

Joshua McHugh / ©Joshua McHugh

Jonathan Adler inside one of his New York City stores.

How does your background as a potter and ceramic designer continue to shape your work?

Everything I do really starts in the pottery studio. It’s a microcosm of all the design challenges one faces in form, shape, texture, color, style. A lot of my vocabulary comes from there.

Your company ethos is one of perpetual optimism, and last year you published the book 100 Ways to Happy Chic Your Life. How do you manage to stay both happy and chic all the time?

The chic part I hope I achieve. The happy part—I’m happy, but I’m not ecstatic. My work expresses joy, but it takes a lot of angst and blood, sweat and tears to make optimistic products.

Your husband Simon [Doonan] also works in an artistic capacity, as the creative ambassador for Barneys. Do you find that his work in the fashion world influences your designs at all?

We’re not at all involved in each other’s jobs, but we have a very similar sensibility. He’s a genius, like a little style icon. He is someone who is living the glamorous life I think everyone should live.

Are there areas of design that you’d like to explore that you haven’t yet?

I would never say no to designing a car. That’s something I would love to do.

If you weren’t a designer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

I think I would be at best a barista and at worst, a thief. I’m absolutely unemployable. I tried to be an employed American when I got out of college, and I got fired from about five jobs in a row. So it was like, pottery or barista.

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