By Nicholas Allen, Class of 1992 Les Roches alumnus
My travels now take me to beautiful San Francisco, where the most gorgeous friend of mine is taking the worlds of architecture and interior design by storm. It’s the irrepressible Diva himself, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Jonathan Rachman!! And don’t forget to check out my most recent ‘Between You and Me’, featuring the wonderful Paolo Montessori.
Nicholas Allen (NA): What year did you graduate?
Jonathan Rachman (JR): I never actually graduated from Les Roches… I moved back to the US after my first year in service. I was in your batch, I believe we started in 1990. I finished my internship at the end of spring 1991 and completed my first year with distinction. I finally got my bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management from the University of San Francisco in 1993.
NA: What is your profession and current position?
JR: Haha, a loaded question, I wear many hats. Professionally I call myself a designer: while I am known as an interior designer, I also design resorts, private villas, high end residences… not only as an interior designer but I also do the exterior, landscape, master planning and down to the collateral materials, uniform, menu, graphics. They refer to me as a taste maker and design influence and collector – new terms for an old-school lad like me.
Technically I am the Principal of Jonathan Rachman Design, a firm I founded 10 years ago in San Francisco. It’s a design studio which also has a boutique that carries my family name, J. Rachman. I collect architectural artefacts and objects as well as gorgeous vintage and antique items from all over the world. Besides that, I design my own accessory line, of bespoke leather bags hand made in Italy, plus a textile line I design for a company called Ellis Dunn, as well as a perfume and home fragrance line I am developing among other accessories. Oh, I am also the publisher and editor of a design journal called Di Sini Di Sana.
Lastly, I just agreed to write a design and lifestyle book with a major French publishing company. Another more personal project is also in the works: I am writing a memoir about my late sister that I lost almost 14 years ago and I am working with a Kiwi editor based in Bali. I want to do this for my niece and nephew so they remember their mom from my point of view. Our design projects are in the US, Europe and Asia (uhm, still waiting for someone to commission me to design something in Australia and Africa…). Nick, I am going to let you tell me what my current profession is… as I am not sure how to answer this question!
NA: Your profession is Glamourpuss and you are the Queen, or maybe Diva… J
NA: Who was your first room-mate at Les Roches?
JR: Simon Keith.
NA: Where did you grow up?
JR: I grew up on the island of Sumatra and in California. And, as you know, I have lived in Switzerland and Paris.
NA: Whom has made the biggest impact on your professional career?
JR: It’s hard to pinpoint one individual, but I must credit the noted editors who have spread the word about me worldwide. Editors from magazines like Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Vogue, Travel and Leisure, Tatler, Cosmopolitan, Dolce, English Home and many others have written about my firm and I.
People like Jenna Scatena, Diane Dorrans Saeks, Doretta Sperduto, Mary Jo Bowling, Paige Porter Fischer and Kerryn Harper-Cuss are some editors that have played essential roles in my professional career. I also must thank Marc Jacobs, Oprah, Sarah Jessica Parker, VH-1, the Four Seasons in San Francisco, as well as the United Nations, who have given me a great start in the design industry. Prior to being an interior designer, I was a floral and event designer and, because of them, I have been commissioned by clients as their designer and taste maker. Of course, I must credit my loyal clients who continue to patronize and support me, some I am obligated to protect their privacy.
NA: Who was your favorite teacher at Les Roches?
JR: Mr. La Salla (Service). Besides being a good teacher, he is a kind and compassionate human being. His respect is earned, never demanded, and his heart is always in the right place. I shall never forget his kind gesture in taking the time to visit and talk to me personally during school as well as during my internship, and when I personally had a challenging time with making the right decision to move back to San Francisco.
NA: He is a true gentleman.
Have an open mind, try everything you are given a chance to, don’t be afraid of making a career change
NA: What’s your advice for new graduates?
JR: This may sound cliché but follow your heart and passion and the rest will follow. Don’t feel like you have to stick around in the industry that you earn your degree from… have an open mind, try everything you are given a chance to, don’t be afraid of making a career change. Stay curious, stay humble and loving. Lastly, none of us gets to where we are on our own… always pay it forward and you are never too important to be kind.
NA: Who did you have a crush on at Les Roches?
JR: Haha… so many, but one person remains in my mind and I still can picture him then, it’s Nick Raven, your roommate I believe!!!
NA: Yes, indeed he was, I just informed him!!
NA: What is your fondest memory of Les Roches?
JR: The camaraderie and friendships I discovered – some lasting ones… names that stay In my heart: Emma, Simon, Fanny, Matt, Grace, Massimo, Maher, Benji and a few more. The winter I listened to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Cowboy Junkies with Simon Keith and Matt Richter; the surprise birthday party my Les Roches clan threw for me at my darkest period and managed to turn it brighter, which I shall never forget!
NA: If I could grant you one wish, what would it be?
JR: I am a cheese ball: to be with my loved ones, deceased and alive, my ohana, our fairy god children and my husband together in one neighborhood, for eternity in health, peace and love… while I don’t believe in the traditional heaven, I think this is my idea of heaven.
NA: You can ask me one question, what is it?
JR: I already did, and it shall remain between us, and I already knew the answer…
NA: Last question. You have organized a lavish dinner party with no expense spared. You can invite eight people, alive or dead, who are they?
JR: My husband, my mom and dad, my late sister, then Bob, who is like a father to me, my late driver uncle Edo, my late maid Ana and Lady Di. It would be in Sanur in a place called Tandjung Sari where Neru declared it was the morning for the world. And it would be my childhood food and moitie moitie fondue I make served with my husband’s cocktails and Fendant, family style, best linens and the flowers I shall arrange myself. And served by the kindest, sweetest most hospitable humans (they can come from anywhere in the world, but they had better have the Balinese soul, and join us for dinner which starts at l’heure de l’apero right before sunset…
NA: Sounds perfect Jonathan! Thank you so much my dearest friend!!
JR: Thank YOU, Nick, big hugs and much love to you!!