“If athletic wear is designed to make you feel sporty, and if a suit is designed to make you feel formal, then our clothes are meant to make you feel breezy,” Alex Crane, founder of his eponymous label, grins to me in his sun-drenched Fort Greene studio as we discuss the genesis of his brand. Since the brand’s inception in 2017, Crane has worked to create timeless basics crafted with a keen eye for sustainability and innovative technology. We caught up to hear a bit about how Alex got in the game, the evolution of DTC brands in recent years and the future for the Brooklyn-based studio.
The Genesis of Alex Crane, the Brand
Crane got his start in fashion taking design classes at RISD while attending Brown University in Providence. The skills he acquired there took him to Jack Spade, where he worked for a few years learning about the world of traditional fashion. But the methodology of starting a brand in 2022 has evolved a lot with the proliferation of DTC brands and online marketplaces. “When I started Alex Crane as a brand, I used a lot of the stuff that I learned from [Jack Spade] as guidance for how to start what I was doing, which in many ways was a mistake. I thought, ‘Okay, you make a collection, you bring it to a trade show, you sell it to stores, and then you deliver it to stores and repeat.’”
This model has evolved a lot in recent years; a DTC model relying on a more intimate relationship with the consumer began to percolate around 2017, before really escalating during the pandemic. “I think after going to a couple of trade shows, going to sell to a few stores, I thought, ‘Oh, I can make a website too.’ It's sort of funny now, from the perspective of 2022. It seems like that's so unbelievably obvious. But that's how dumb I was,” he recalls, chuckling.
The Alex Crane Ethos
When you touch an Alex Crane garment, the ethos becomes clear pretty quickly. “The tagline of the brand is, ‘Feel breezy.’ We choose materials and fits and colors that reflect that feeling. And I think that when you try the clothes you do understand what that means.” The actual feeling of the clothes is one side of the coin: “Then the other piece of it is that we've committed to using only natural. Which means that we're not using any synthetics, nothing that's made from plastic or oil. No fiber derived from synthetics is in any of our clothing. Down to—in our shorts, the elastic is made from natural rubber, which comes from a tree, not the synthetic version. The draw cord is made from a hundred percent cotton. The shorts themselves are a hundred percent linen.
“Also, increasingly we're learning that [synthetic materials] are bad for us to wear. We're starting to put plastics into everything. So I think it's important to show that you can have very modern, clean looks and not need to use these kinds of sort of cutting edge synthetic materials. Because there are old materials that you can use in cutting edge ways.”
When I ask Alex about the future, there's no shortage of excitement. As a brand centered around creating timeless pieces, the future is less about developing garments starkly different from the current line, and moreso about continuing to escalate the brand's commitment to sustainability while incorporating new materials into their evergreen styles.
Speaking about using all natural materials, Alex explains: "I like the idea that we could be part of the conversation and one of the first to really do it in a concerted way in the clothes space. I think we're starting to see some traction with that. People are starting to recognize the difference there. And I will be surprised if that trend doesn't continue."
When we turn to actual pieces, Alex is excited about the continued integration of leather goods into the line. "We have leather goods that come from Oaxaca," he tells me, turning to a pair of sandals: "These are handmade, hand-cut. I got married in Oaxaca in Mexico, and when I was in the town called Puerto Escondido, I found a version of these that I thought were really cool. Afterwards, I hunted down the manufacturers, which are also in Oaxaca, and we started working together to make various leather goods. We have a belt coming out, we have this folio," he gestures to an array of leather products to come down the line.
In addition to the leather goods, they plan to continue to alter and vary the existing garments. They're working on discharge printing, “which is where you basically remove the ink from the fabric as opposed to putting a print on top.” And one of my personal favorite releases from earlier this year: the sun tee.
"This a hundred percent linen knit t-shirt, which is something you don't see that much and it has this body to it. We have that coming out in more colors," he explains as we thumb through a rack of tees. The sun tee is comprised of one of the most incredibly soft materials I've ever felt.
They're also launching a work jacket; "That's going to be the warmest thing you have in the mix," he explains. The work jacket should release in early November. Crane is even working on a more traditional suit, because "people are getting married in our stuff. I actually personally did get married in the kite jacket. But I feel like we should make a version that's a bit more formal."
Overall, Crane is also excited about the premise of getting to relaunch a bit in person post-pandemic. The products are carried in a few stores already in NYC and LA, and these avenues open an opportunity for people to interact with the clothing more fully than they can digitally.
"I want there to be physical experiences. There's something really beautiful about having it go to these places around the world and allowing those stores to represent it, how they want to represent it. To integrate it into their world, because they kind of know the individual landscape of their community better than we possibly could," he explains. Find a full list of retail locations for the brand here.
Grinning and cracking jokes left and right our entire conversation, Alex leaves me with a genuine optimism about the way his brand practices can contribute to an overall shift in the fashion world: "Let's change the narrative and approach with the idea of using natural materials as a goal. And then show how cool that can be, you know?"