Shopping with purpose

There’s no denying the talent and creativity on display at Jonathan Adler in Greenwich.

On a recent chilly evening that premise is reinforced with the quickest of glances.

It’s seen in the paint-splattered design elevating what would have otherwise been simple gold coasters. It’s noted in the unexpected candle scents that include vodka, absinthe and bourbon. It’s boldly pronounced with the Canaan accent table, a study in Carrara marble with a solid brass sleeve; with the selection of unusually shaped mirrors; and again, in the colorful and quirky flair of an oversize print featuring a peacock.

And it’s amped up to another level with the arrival of Adler himself, who walks into the bright Greenwich Avenue design destination in his trademark white jeans — in December? Oh yes, he’s pulling it off — and with a buoyant attitude that sets the tone for the festive evening.

On this night, the simple potter-turned-design legend and author is hosting a “Shop for a Cause” event, with 20 percent of the evening’s proceeds to benefit the Breast Cancer Alliance.

WAG was kindly invited along, given the chance to sit down with Adler before things got into full swing and have, what he suggests, a bit of a “saucy” conversation.

OK, we say with a laugh, lets’s start at the beginning.

“I started so by accident and without any plan,” the New Jersey native says.

“I just started pursuing my passion for pottery, and I never thought other than ‘a’ pot. I never thought that I could make a business and a life.”

But that he certainly did, opening his first location in Soho in 1998.

So, we ask, what do you call your places — showroom, studio, boutique? Some designers, we note, get a bit huffy if you don’t use their preferred term.

Not Adler, who says “my parents never taught me anything,” except “never use a euphemism — it’s a store.”

And, he adds, he now has 30 of them — with an equally stylish Westport store in the region.

“I like to do stuff that has a nod to tradition,” he says, but reminds us, “Glamour always comes first.”

Greenwich and Westport, he says, are “uniquely sophisticated.”

He says that here, people not only have beautiful homes but are “not afraid to be bold.” In short, they are his ideal customers — and he’s working to keep them ever satisfied.

“My motto is kind of more, more, more. More pots. More furniture.”

Over the years, Adler has truly identified what he sees as his unique look.

“I call my design style modern American glamour. I think my work reflects an American sense of optimism.”

And these days, he agrees, that’s really important.

“I think it’s a turbulent time and hope it’s a time for people to make their homes a chic refuge.”

To help those efforts, Adler is constantly at work.

“Every day I come to my office-slash-studio, and there are always some exciting samples from around the world.”

It’s all about, he says, “tingling my chakras.”

But in today’s marketplace, it’s also more.

“It’s a funny thing being a creative person,” he says. It’s no longer enough. It’s also about being a marketer, a promoter — all about the “tweets and twiddle and doodle.”

He made quite a recent splash — in the form of a 7-foot-tall bronze banana, his first public art commission — that was the centerpiece of a refreshing of the Parker Palm Springs resort in California. The work, he notes, was a revisit of his decade-old project, noting slyly: “I find every 10 years it’s time for a facelift.”

For Adler, the work continues to flow, though he hates being pinned down to a schedule — something he admits can exasperate those around him.

“Mine has been a journey of trying to rein me in and normalize me — and it’s been a complete failure,” he says. “I’m a slave to my muse, and she does not have a schedule.”

He will call her “quixotic,” but clearly, she calls the shots.

“All I care about is making stuff,” he says.

Inspiration is everywhere.

“I do see movies and get inspired, but I could just as easily be inspired by say an old movie as taking a hike and seeing a leaf.”

Clearly, it’s a life filled with whimsy — and dedication.

So, how does it all play out with his husband, Simon Doonan, the creative ambassador for Barneys New York and fellow author? (Doonan, on hand this evening, is equally charming and seems quite bemused by WAG’s name. He tells us with an amazed look he’s spent the day writing about WAGs for his new book on soccer — “Wives and girlfriends” of famous athletes, not our magazine. We share a laugh at the inside joke.)

“For Simon and me, it’s completely organic,” Adler says. “There’s not an ounce of separation between anything.”

Adler says that he and Doonan, together for 22 years, share a New York-based life that naturally falls into place — and often focuses on their dog, Foxylady.

“Have you seen a picture?” Adler asks, pulling out his phone.

This particular shot features the (admittedly adorable) pup posing with a soccer ball — one sporting Louis Vuitton logos, of course.

Looking intently at the image, he says, “It captured her soulfulness.”

Soon after, it’s time to thank Adler, allowing him to go meet and greet his stylish supporters here in Greenwich.

Jonathan Adler is at 88 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich; and 166 Main St., Westport. For more, visit

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