Remembering Palm Springs fashion icon Jonathan Skow, aka Mr. Turk

Hosted by

Jonathan Skow, fashion designer and photographer known to many as Mr. Turk, died Oct. 12 at the age of 55. Photo credit: Linda Gaunt Communications/The Desert Sun

Palms Springs' Modernism Week -- celebrated each spring -- has become so large it now has a preview in October that has become a design event in itself.

Anyone going to this weekend’s preview would undoubtedly either be wearing -- or visiting -- the Mr. Turk clothing store on Palm Canyon Drive.

But lovers of Palm Springs modernism will miss one of the scene’s most beloved characters.

Jonathan Skow died on Oct. 12 following a bodysurfing accident in Hawaii on Labor Day weekend.

He was a larger than life character -- literally, he was extremely tall -- and a lovable character who was a stylist, photographer, architecture enthusiast and husband of famed fashion designer Trina Turk.

Initially he did the photoshoots for her women’s clothing line.

But then he and Trina created Mr. Turk, a men’s clothing line that they launched ten years ago that they characterized as “California dapper”.

This included suits, pants, shirts, swimsuits and accessories for men who have no fear of eye-popping colors and patterns. They are sharp outfits that riff on style of California swingers in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Both Trina Turk and Mr. Turk were launched in Palm Springs and are seen as key to the revitalization of the city’s Uptown Design District.

Jonathan told DnA in an interview a few years ago that around 70 percent of Mr. Turk sales were through their Palms Springs store.

“And what sells in Palm Springs is really specific,” he said, adding that buyers there typically choose apple green over navy. “Palm Springs is a very accepting place if you want to wear tangerine orange.”

William Kopelk, a friend dating back to their arrival in the desert city, chairman of Modernism Week and proud owner of a collection of vintage Mr. Turk, told DnA the Palm Springs community is devastated at Skow’s passing.

He recalls his friend as “kind of a renaissance man who’s pretty much excellent in every field that he’s interested in, whether it be fashion design, whether it be photography, styling, beekeeping, landscaping.”

Skow, he said, was “the life of the party. Very nice, very respectful. Never downgraded anyone by talk or anything like that. Always made everyone feel included. And was also a great preservationist especially here in Palm Springs.”

More than simply selling their clothes in Palm Springs, Jonathan and Trina were very involved in the city.

They bought and restored the 1936 Art Deco house known as the "Ship of the Desert," originally designed by Earl Webster and Adrian Wilson. They would host events and home tours there during events like Modernism Week.

They were very involved in architectural preservation and they were major donors to the Architecture and Design center in Palm Springs as well as many other design institutions in Palm Springs and LA.

But Skow’s personality was as large and bold as his designs.

He was very funny, with a saucy sense of humor -- both visual and verbal. You can see his naughty visuals on his Instagram feed which become hugely popular.

And he was kind. At a dinner once at the Ship of the Desert, attended by DnA’s Frances Anderton, a guest was bitten by a large desert centipede. Jonathan switched from dinner conversation to focus 100 percent on helping the man and attending to the bite, and then to calm people’s worries about desert insects, a subject he clearly knew based on his beekeeping expertise.

Mayer Rus, West Coast Editor for Architectural Digest, told DnA, “I'm sure there will be many puns about his height. But Jonathan truly was a larger-than-life figure, and not just because of his divinely idiosyncratic personal style. He was full of warmth, humor, and generosity -- and those qualities were right on the surface. He radiated sweetness and joy.”