What does it take to turn the humble craft of pottery into a high-fashion obsession? Stripes, sensuous curves and Jonathan Adler, 33. The New Yorker’s creations have popped up on TV’s Felicity and Will & Grace; real-life Adler pot fiends include Catherine Deneuve and de-signer Todd Oldham. (Linda Evange-lista, Daniel Day-Lewis and Sean “Puffy” Combs own the colorful ponchos and pillows Adler also designs.) His vases, lamps and other ceramics “appear so effortless,” says Oldham, “yet are clearly the works of a very gifted artist.”
They’re also a $2.5-million-a-year business. Adler, who personally crafts the “couture collection” he sells for $100 to $600 at his SoHo boutique and at trendy stores such as Manhattan’s Jeffrey, launched a cheaper “pot-a-porter” line (made by Peruvian artisans) last year for the Pottery Barn chain. His secret is a look that’s more hip than hippie. “My work has gotten away from the Vermont crunchy aesthetic,” says the Bridgeton, N.J., native, who majored in art history and semiotics (doesn’t every potter?) at Brown University before honing his craft at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Indeed, Adler often labors in Prada shoes—to the consternation of his style-maven partner of five years, Barneys creative director Simon Doonan. “I buy him fancy designer bits for his birthday, and they end up spattered with clay,” sighs Doonan, 47, who shares a lower Manhattan apartment with Adler and their terrier Liberace. “I can’t keep anything clean,” admits Adler. “I’ve surrendered to the clay.”