I’ve never been to Palm Springs. I’ve never been to a Mr Turk store or bought anything from the brand, but I was a fan from afar, always hoping that eventually he would, or a store would, pick up on the brand and bring it over it here.
Left - True ChicGeek, Mr Turk, aka Jonathan Skow
Unfortunately, Mr Turk, aka Jonathan Skow, died on Saturday aged 55 after suffering a spinal cord injury in Hawaii over Labor Day weekend while in the ocean bodysurfing. The husband of L.A. designer Trina Turk, he was known for his colourfully patterned swimwear and patterned suits. It was a contemporary version of Lilly Pulitzer with all the camp and playfulness of mid-century design.
Skow was also a photographer and captured the brand perfectly for the Instagram age with its scantily glad models and bright colours.
A Seattle native, he and his wife purchased the 1936 Art Deco house known as the "Ship of the Desert” in Palm Springs and painstakingly restored it, sparking a revival in the once-fabled desert playground of the stars.
Skow and Turk met as students at the University of Washington in a textile science class and came to Los Angeles in 1985. He was a fashion stylist for 12 years before a career as a fashion and advertising photographer. In 2008, Skow began to devote all of his time to their apparel company and created Mr Turk.
This is menswear as sunshine and shows warm weather clothes can be stylish and put together. As men have become braver and bolder in their choices, Mr Turk perfectly charted this rise over the last 10 years.
While Trina may continue with Mr Turk, like any brand when it loses its founder and main creative driving force, it’s never usually the same or as good.
Right - Menswear to make you want to go on holiday
Left - Mr Turk x Jonathan Adler collab.
Below - This blazer is timeless Palm Springs style
I’d heard of his surname, obvs, but I didn’t know the man behind the brand until he died recently and I read an obituary on the flight over to the recent Pitti Uomo. Jack O’Neill’s life is a fascinating story of the birth of surfing and how it came to influence 20th century style and grew to become a huge, billion dollar industry.
Left - Jack started to wear his eye patch in the 1970s after his surfboard hit his eye
“I just wanted to surf longer”, was the inspiration for the eye patch-wearing surfing pioneer who helped to invent the wetsuit.
Before the advent of the wetsuit, O’Neill and his fellow surfers had been braving the Pacific by wearing long underwear or sweaters coated with oily sealant, or by stuffing flexible polyvinyl chloride into their swimming trunks.
He was turning blue from ocean temperatures that even on balmy summer afternoons might barely flirt with 60 degrees.
O’Neill’s wetsuit discovery came about after he moved with his wife to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach neighbourhood in the early 1950s.
“All my friends said, ‘O’Neill, you will sell to five friends on the beach and then you will be out of business,’” he would remark, according to his family.
By one account, a friend, Harry Hind, told him about a compound that had been developed by DuPont about two decades earlier for foam rubber life vests. By another account,O’Neill said a light went off when he examined the rubber undercoating on the carpet of a DC-3 commercial airliner.
Whatever the inspiration, he began developing suits for surfing and bodysurfing, originally covering just the torso. They were not waterproof, however. Rather, the suit trapped a thin layer of water, warmed by body heat, between the neoprene and the skin.
In San Francisco he opened one of the area’s first surf shops, but in 1959 moved his growing family 75 miles (120km) south to Santa Cruz, where he opened his second shop to cater to the city’s growing surf scene.
By 1960 Mr. O’Neill was laminating an elastic nylon jersey lining to the neoprene foam to prevent it from tearing, and to make it easier to put on. He made his first full-length model within a decade.
He began wearing a black eye patch after his surfboard hit his left eye while riding a wave in the 1970s.
By the 1980s, O’Neill had become the world’s largest recreation wetsuit designer and manufacturer and the O’Neill surf brand had reached Australia, Europe and Japan.
While surfing brands have taken a hit during this century, the name is known the world over for an escapist lifestyle that is continually referenced and returned to. There's something very romantic and healthy about the early Californian surf culture and it's worth noting this pioneer lived to the ripe old age of 94 despite the amount of UV rays he was exposed to.