Trina Turk

PalmSprings.com Spotlight: An Interview with Designer Trina Turk

Trina Turk is renowned for putting the iconic Palm Springs style on the international stage. Known for her bold prints and dynamic hues that celebrate the relaxed Palm Springs resort lifestyle, Trina is greatly respected locally as the pioneer who first took a chance on what is now the flourishing Uptown Design District in the City of Palm Springs. The shopping destination, celebrated around the world by tastemakers and lovers of fashion, furniture, design and all things modern, is now an ultra-cool style mecca due in large part to Turk’s initial investment. In addition, she recently opened the first Mr. Turk men’s retail store in Uptown, and her brand and vision have played a tremendous role in the renaissance currently underway in the city.

Possessed of a passion for mid-century modern architecture and preservation, Turk spends much of her time in Palm Springs with her husband, photographer Jonathan Skow, and together they own the mid-century modern estate “Ship of the Desert,” which has become a showpiece for the iconic Trina Turk Palm Springs lifestyle. Turk also recently underwrote the sleek new Trina Turk Gallery inside the Palm Springs Art Museum’s new Architecture and Design Center. A dynamic businesswoman, she runs a multi-million dollar fashion empire inspired by the good life in Palm Springs and is passionate about promoting and celebrating all the wonderful things this uniquely original destination has to offer. On January 30th, Trina will be honored with the “WLF Desert Visionary Award” at the Women Leadership Forum of the Coachella Valley’s 3rd annual Women Who Rule Awards Luncheon and Scholarship Fundraiser.

Trina Turk: My first visit to Palm Springs was to my great Aunt Rose who was living at Villa Roma in the late 1960s. Even as a kid, I thought Palm Springs was a fabulous place. I had always loved the space where our original boutique is located, which used to be a vintage modern furniture store.  Whenever we visited, I told my husband, Jonathan, that if it ever became available, I would want to open a store there.  I liked the abundant natural light and the airiness of the space—with windows front and back.  It became available Labor Day weekend 2011, and we signed the lease on Sept 10, 2011.  We had no idea what the ramifications of Sept 11 would be, but have managed to weather both that storm and the 2008 recession.

It was later we learned that the building had been designed by Albert Frey in 1961. Frey is a well known desert modernist architect who designed many buildings in Palm Springs, including City Hall.

Kate Buckley: How has Palm Springs influenced your design and style? Does the changing face of Palm Springs continue to do so?

Trina Turk:  Palm Spring provides endless inspiration for meI’ve always been inspired by the idea of cocktails by the pool, people dressed in a casually elegant way, the sound of conversation, clinking glasses and laughter of a great sound track.  I also appreciate how Palm Springs embraces all of the qualities of the modern California lifestyle: optimistic, progressive, accessible, effortless, colorful and confident.  I try to incorporate all of the above into my work.

Kate Buckley: Who do you count as your biggest style influences (dead or alive!) and why?

Trina Turk: My style icons are Iris Apfel, Millicent Rogers, Audrey Hepburn, Mary Tyler Moore in the 70s, Jackie O, Gloria Steinem, Diana Vreeland, and Peggy Moffatt.  All of these strong women were able to mix chic and casual—something I strive for in my designs.

Kate Buckley: On January 30th, you will be honored with the “WLF Desert Visionary Award” at the Women Leadership Forum of the Coachella Valley’s 3rd annual Women Who Rule Awards Luncheon and Scholarship Fundraiser. Congratulations! How do you view your contributions to the Palm Springs community?

I’d also like to talk a little bit about your role as a Palm Springs style and fashion icon, and your role as an early supporter of the Uptown Design District and the new Architecture and Design Museum. Many people in Palm Springs view you as a visionary. Do you view yourself that way? Would it be fair to call you a Palm Springs pioneer?

Trina Turk: My husband, Jonathan, and I have both been involved in preserving mid-century architecture in Palm Springs since we bought our house there in 1998. We’re members of the Palm Springs Modern Committee and the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Council and helped to fund the purchase of the building for the Palm Spring Art Museum Architecture and Design Center.

We wanted to reciprocate to the community in a way that matched our preservationist interests and demonstrated how to adaptively reuse midcentury buildings. I’d also like to think I played a role in the revival of the Uptown Palm Springs Shopping District.  We were originally a destination boutique on a fairly quiet strip of N Palm Canyon Drive—walk-ins were rare. Over the past 10 years, new design-minded businesses have opened in the vicinity creating a unique shopping district. The positive unintended consequence of our original location in what was then “no man’s land” has been a revitalization of the neighborhood.  Now, with all of our new neighbors, there’s foot traffic on the street that we’re happy to see.

Kate Buckley: You’re extremely accomplished, by any standards. What achievement are you most proud of and why?

Trina Turk: I’m proud that we’re celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Trina Turk this year.  The fashion business is highly competitive and the landscape is constantly changing.  So to have weathered a series of challenges—including the recession of 2008—is an accomplishment.

Kate Buckley: What do you love most about Palm Springs?

Trina Turk: The combination of the weather, the desert landscape, the architecture, and the lifestyle make it easy to adopt a carefree attitude and just enjoy the days.

If you or your organization would like to be interviewed for a Palm Springs Spotlight, please contact PalmSprings.com.

About Kate Buckley

Kate Buckley is a brand strategist, premium domain broker and consultant, interviewer, storyteller, visual artist, and award-winning poet & writer. She’s worked in media and marketing since 1997, holds an MFA in Creative Writing, and is the author of A Wild Region (Moon Tide Press) and Follow Me Down (Tebot Bach). A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her awards include a Gabeheart Prize and the North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize. She was most recently shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. A ninth-generation Kentuckian, she’s made her home in Southern California since 1998.

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