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For next fall, Steven Alan is all about oversize sweaters in somber shades of gray and cream—sort of like The Row, but with a very different sense of proportion. The first impression for editors at his fall 2014 presentation: Damn, those models look cozy. And the second: Hang on, there's jewelry!
Gold bracelets and chokers glinted on the model's necks and around their wrists, on top of their sweater sleeves. This is Alan's first foray into jewelry, and it follows a series of other big recent expansions: eyewear, home goods, stores in new markets around the country. After the jump, he talks about how his year of growth inspired the new collection, and about the difference between this Fashion Week and NYFWs past.
Accessories! This is new for you guys.
What prompted it?
"Well, it's a big category for us in the stores. For this collection, we started out with simple shapes, like a circle and a line, a pearl, and we were just literally playing with those things. It's very simple—the choker, the bracelets. We're doing them in precious and semi-precious metals.
We've been doing the bags, so we're continuing doing the bags. We're doing the shoes out of Brazil and out of the UK. And the eyewear we've been doing. We just keep layering the things we want to do, and we learn from it."
You recently expanded into housewares, too, and launched a collaboration with West Elm. Is the goal to reach another audience?
"When we opened our home store, we wanted to do a lot of things but we didn't have any scale to do it. So with West Elm, that allowed us to really get to a certain level. But everything we made with them was by hand. Our stipulation is that we only wanted to do it if we could utilize artisans. It was difficult to execute, because we made things in Nicaragua, Haiti, India, and with no machines."
You just expanded into a bunch of new markets, too. It's been a big year.
"We did, and that was a big inspiration for us, actually—visiting these markets, spending time in the stores. That was definitely influential in the collection.
That was one thing, and we were also inspired by the painter Andrew Wyeth—all these somber tones, the Atlantic and the East Coast. And then everyone working in our design office was wearing sweaters at work, and scarves, and we had some blankets around because it got really cold, and we just started designing into that. We had this thing, 'the new softness,' which was our overriding design theme inspiration."
Alan poses with two models during his presentation.
Can you give me any examples of what in the new markets that inspired this? Is there anything about, say, Chicago in particular, or DC?
"It's a sophisticated customer, you know. We have stores in Portland, Oregon, but also in Dallas, and in Connecticut, and we try to really tailor what we sell. We don't kind of make the same things for all the stores, and we don't buy the same things for all the stores.
So for me, as a designer, but also as a buyer, it's fun, because then I get to play around with different categories. Just like home is a new category—that was amazing, working with potters and people making blankets and things like that, and getting to know that market."
Are you going to a bunch of other shows this fashion week, scouting?
"No, I get too exhausted. I'm going to go home now and play with my kids."
As a retailer, you've been showing at Fashion Week the last couple years. What do you feel like the value of that is?
"Having a show is a great way for what you're doing to be available online. Before there was online, it was really limited, but now that it's online it's accessible to everybody. I think if we can do it, it's a great thing to be able to do."
This fashion week has felt so different from previous ones. Have you experienced it differently?
"The last two shows we did uptown, but this [the gallery-like Studio 5 at the Meatpacking District's Industria] to me feels like our space—just having natural daylight, the models. It just feels like us as a brand."
· The Olsens Will Have You Swimming In Your Clothing [Racked]
· NYFW Fall 2014 [Racked]