Monday, March 5, 2012

Style Profile - Alex Sumner: ‘My designs are like free flowing Jazz’...

It has happened with me from time to time that I meet some really inspiring people who have some really inspiring things to say. I met Alex a while ago and was awestruck with the kind of persona he had... He was dressed preppy and was riding a skateboard... I thought what an amazing and an intriguing paradox... A representation of an idea perhaps that I was really curious about... Alex was pretty generous in agreeing for an interview and I had one of the most enlightening conversations with him about Fashion...Style...and the psychology behind it.

Alex is a custom clothier and has a Menswear brand by the name of Alexander Nash... for me he is much more than a designer... an omniscient person whose understanding of fashion is very mature.
So we sat down in his work studio with some jazz music in the background and hence followed the conversation: 

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Amrit : Where are you from?
Alex: I am from Connecticut originally and have been living in New York since past 20 years now.

Amrit: You have a very peculiar sense of style Alex, It intrigues me to know where did it all started from?
Alex: I was hugely inspired by my father... he had an impeccable sense of style and a great deal of knowledge about Suits and fabrics  since he used to work in an textile mill here in New York. As a kid it was always fun to see the way he used to dress up and I used to carefully pay attention to all those small and big details in his outfit... I think that is what makes an outfit interesting....Details!

Amrit: It’s nice to know that your love for style started at a very early age, how do you think it helped shaping up your sensibilities towards dressing up?

Alex : What I learnt from my father was how to be resourcefully refined and versatile... it’s like if you have 20 suits / sportjackets in your wardrobe you are limited by the possibility of following different looks, you will just wear those 20 won’t mix and match things but just follow the looks you already have in your wardrobe... it’s like being stuck in your comfort zone...I have around 3-4 conservative suits and 6-7 sport jackets...and I mix and match them a lot... accessorize the look with pocket squares, ties, cuff links , socks, shoes and you have a completely new look every time... I like to challenge myself and other people’s perception by exploring the possibility of looks I can make with even an average size wardrobe. I believe if one does that he / she can really understand their style inclination and try to make most out of it...

Amrit: That’s an interesting perspective... I never thought about it but that’s even what I do... I have an average wardrobe too but I try to mix and match things so that every time I wear something it looks like a completely new look.
Alex: That’s the whole point... Look different every time you dress up!

Amrit: And where do you generally shop at?
Alex: I shop a lot at vintage stores... It’s an experience for me whenever I do that... you get to learn so many things... Going through a vintage store is like a reflection of one’s life and you can actually see how Men’s fashion progressed... I like to educate myself by doing that... if you want to learn about style you need to educate yourself by paying attention to such things... you need to nurture it so that you become sure of what you are looking for and what suits you... and going to a vintage store always helps me to understand the quintessential menswear.
My wardrobe also consists of many pieces that my father used to wear... I just make small changes like a contrasting color buttonhole on the lapel and the sleeves ... again the point comes down to being resourceful!

Amrit: I completely agree with what you just said but do you think that dressing up should be such a task for people who really want to look stylish?
Alex: I think if you really want to look stylish and have passion for it you would enjoy doing all these things... it comes naturally... One should not consider it as a task but should have fun while dressing up and if you are not having fun there is definitely something wrong and you better not do it then because you might end up looking as a complete clown or would be low on self confidence... you don’t want either of these...

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Amrit: I know... Those 15 – 20 min that I take to dress up is something that I really enjoy doing myself... what shirt would go with which trouser... which tie to wear... what shoes  would look good... It’s an amazing feeling every time I do it... and when finally I am done I feel so confident and know that I am looking good.
Alex: You know sometimes I think that style is all relative... for someone an outfit would look utterly stupid and the very next minute you might be getting complements for that very outfit by a different person.
We are always looking for that perfect look to happen and sometimes people force themselves too much and they end up screwing the whole look... so it’s important that you have a style direction and just go for it.

Amrit: Your thoughts about style seem to be very deep, tell me what inspires you?
Alex: Its part nature and part nurture... I believe I was born with a good eye and it got even better over the years  ... one is definitely affected in the kind of environment he/ she lives... for me it has always been that can get inspired by so many things that are around you and even before you know it you yourself you are actually inspired by it ... I am always open to all possibilities it’s like you need to allow the universe to unfold for itself...
I also believe that one should be with people whom you can grow with... it teaches you a lot and can inspire you in ways you never thought of.

Amrit: I see you listen to a lot of Jazz, who are your favourite artist?
Alex: It has to be Thelonious Monk... not only the music but also his style was unique... everything he did was so distinctive that it always left me mesmerized... He is one of those people that I always get inspired from.
I also like Grateful Dead... they were so unique and eclectic... John Coltrane and Miles Davis all of these are from the same school of thought... they were unique and used to improvise everything they did.
Even my designs are like free flowing Jazz!

Amrit: Free flowing jazz! I like the sound of that... so what made you start up Alexander Nash  as Menswear brand?
Alex: I started with Alexander Nash in 2002... I had a habit of going to the fabric stores to source material for my clothes that I used to get stitched... One day one of my friends suggested me to go to Mood Fabrics in the Garment district... there I saw so many possibilities of combinations... there were these sparks of ideas going all over in my head... so I got a few of them and got them made by a Tailor... and then it just struck me and I planned to start a Men’s custom tailored brand...Alexander Nash.

The idea was also to educate people through my designs and let them know what looks good on them. My designs tell a story... a story with which my clients can associate themselves with or aspire to do so...

As I earlier said I like to be resourceful... sometimes some of my clients just bring in their sport jackets and I just edit it with a few of my details... the result is that it ends up looking like a better version of their earlier jacket... I always try to educate my clients and then sell them my designs... I just don’t sell clothes... I present ideas! 

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 Amrit: I see there is a lot of contrast in your character... you dress up preppy and ride a skateboard... you like wearing neat and good suits but have tattoos all over?
Alex : I like to challenge people’s perception of the world of individuals!

Amrit: As I can see that you have a point of view about things, who are your favourite designers?
Alex: Honestly for me... I really liked YSL from the 70’s & 80’s... I think he understood both menswear and womenswear very well... I like Paul Smith too for his usage of colors and how he makes his collection look so much fun.  

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Amrit: Why do you think it’s important for men to dress up?
Alex: I think at the end of the day the hidden motive of dressing up is to get noticed and for men they surely want to get noticed by women. Dressing up is the perfect way of intimidating the opposite sex... a little harmless domination... let the women and rest of the men know that you are the alpha male in the crowd and you deserve consideration.
I think if one is dressed nicely, it is the easiest ice breaker. If you make it a point to always look good... be resourceful and have fun while dressing up you will be surely getting a lot of compliments and attention.
The way you dress also gives a representation of the kind of person you are... a person who dresses up well comes across as a person who knows about things and is confident.

Amrit: What do you think is the coming trend for the next season?
Alex: For me True fashion is timeless and is free from seasons and trends.

Amrit: What would be your suggestion for men... how can they be resourceful?
Alex: First of all your clothes should fit you properly...specially suits... It won’t matter if you’ll be wearing an expensive suit that does not fit well... you need to pay close attention to the fit you choose to wear... I always suggest going for a trimmer and fitted look...
Always remember that for a suit one should have the selection of good fabric... good construction...and a good fit!

Avoid black during the day... A navy suit always does the trick and its versatility is unmatched...combine it with a white tie... brown brogue shoes... and for evening with the same suit... take off the tie... put in a colourful pocket square and coordinate it with a matching pair of socks... replace the trouser with a good fitted jeans and you are good to go.
The pocket square... socks... jeans... all these are accents in your outfit... these are what that determines your outfit.

I personally wear a lot of white and red during evening... because these colors stand out the most in low light.

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