Button-downs, from $130
Three years ago, Ernest Alexander hit the scene with some durable American-made bags. Word of the smart, studied design and uncompromising quality quickly spread and the young label has since steadily grown into an emerging lifestyle brand for modern men. And while the offerings are expanding, every piece is still crafted here in the States—not far from their design studio in New York City's garment district. We caught up with founder Ernest Sabine to talk about building a brand, finding your aesthetic and American-made quality.
Twill blazer, $395
I guess you could say the clothing business is in my blood. My grandmother and great grandmother were seamstresses who immigrated here after WWII. I went to a traditional all-boys school where a coat and tie were the standard. That shaped a lot of my personal style—preppy leanings mixed with an edge, always from the perspective of an outsider. Nowadays, when it comes to designing my label, I try to infuse that same style, classic elements paired with a more forward looking design sensibility. We launched in the middle of the financial crisis. A strange time to be starting a new business, but it worked out because suppliers who wouldn't normally work with an upstart were happy to have the business.
As a newer label, making our product in the USA has actually been much easier than going abroad. It's a lot more flexible. You can do things in lower quantities, which gives you the freedom to test new ideas. It makes the entire process much more immediate. Plus, it's nice to know by name the people who are crafting your product. Of course, you pay a much higher price for skilled labor, but we think it's worth it and our customers are overwhelmingly supporting this idea.
Just living in New York City is one of my biggest inspirations. Guys are dressing so much better these days and the sidewalks are filled with such a range of flair—from throwback styles to refined tailoring to Americana heritage. I'll often walk from our design studio down to our SoHo shop just to people watch. That's when I notice little details like some color peeking out from a lining or a different shaped lapel. I've been known to secretly snap iPhone photos of guys on the street. Borderline stalker-ish, yes, but I try to be sneaky about it.