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SIMON SAYS: Twenty years after giving holiday partygoers the proverbial icebreaker — aka the kitschy Christmas sweater — Michael Simon is about to show them how it’s done through a new Kickstarter campaign. His $15,000 online quest starts Tuesday and is meant to try to bring The Mr. Micknit Holiday Patch Kit to the masses. The DIY $29 package features adhesive that can be applied to sweaters, pillows, iPhone cases, backpacks, wine bottles and pretty much anything else.
“We were decorating a bottle of beer with reindeer and we called it ‘reinbeer,’” Simon said. “It’s really all about having fun and engaging people. That’s what the conversational sweaters were all about.”
Having just wrapped up filming a video in his Old Greenwich, Conn., carriage house for the Kickstarter effort, Simon said his film debut was “basically uncomfortable people trying to speak naturally. I didn’t want to be in it but they told me I had to.”
A former Joffrey Ballet scholarship winner, Simon first learned the ins and outs of knitwear by working for a man who made leg warmers for Simon and his fellow ballet dancers. Once he started dabbling in sweater design and personal requests poured in, he gave up his dancing career for one in fashion. After making one-size-fits-all, bright-colored sweaters all the rage in the Eighties, he branched out into conversational designs. By the mid- to late-Nineties, his company generated about $35 million in annual sales, he said.
Today, Simon and his eight-person team reel in about $5 million by producing embellished sweaters (not conversational ones) for retailers like Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. While the Kickstarter initiative is a side project for Simon that is not affiliated with his company, he does plan to reintroduce conversational designs to his signature collection next year.