Get ready for the Alder New York experience. David J. Krause and Nina Zilka are an intelligent, and complementary duo, with a strong knowledge of their customer base. Upon meeting them, I learned what indeed separates them from the pack is their unique point of view, their outlook on design, life within their environment and the desire to do things a little differently. Alder New York was founded in 2011, and they approach fashion in a thoughtful, and practical way, focusing on the design, functionality and detail of each piece, while taking pride in manufacturing their collections locally. Along with their clothing line, which caters to men and women, they create a line of natural and chemical-free apothecary goods including – a dry shampoo, lip balms and a pomade, which will be expanding to other products, and home goods as they continue to grow. It’s safe to say these two are cultured and savvy, with more to offer their customers than the average clothing brand. Read on to find out more about who they are and what they’ve got going on.
Why the name: Alder New York?
Nina: When we started Alder New York, we wanted it to be a really easy to say name, easy to remember and really classic and kind of neutral. Alder is a plant: The Alder Tree. It felt like a good fit, and we are also interested in working with high quality fabric, locally, all with the idea of being a part of your environment, which the Alder tree is.
What inspired your venture into fashion?
David: I originally started off in Fine Arts and I was inspired to make something that was beautiful, and could make people react. We take quality clothing and turn it into something that you’re not going to throw out.
Nina: Wow, that feels like a really long time ago. I felt like fashion, to me, was just a really natural form of self-expression more than any other mediums, and I have the easiest time expressing how I feel through how I present myself, and our model to the world.
What inspires you the most when you start a collection?
Nina: I think more and more, it’s about customer, and thinking about what that man or woman is looking for in their clothing and their apothecary, and really trying to meet their needs.
David: We’ve been asked this question a lot, and we usually say our environment but I think that’s changed with realizing how our customer exists in their environment, or the way they interact in the environment and their surroundings.
Give us an idea of the steps you take while preparing for your next line. What goes into the process?
Nina: A lot. There is so many steps, one is going to find the fabrics that work for the collection, and then, kind of designing in tandem with figuring out the fabrication, because those things go hand in hand. Then saying, do we have a pant for our customer, do we have a shirt, or multiple shirts, do we have all the things that our customers would want for a season. Then there is the making of it, so a lot goes into it. On the creative end, I think once we start getting a feel for the fabrics it’s also sort of what kind of mood emotionally are we in.
David: The initial mood, is kind of like we’re feeling very sport / summer, kind of like tropical beach, and then we start thinking of pieces that come into our head. Like what does he wear with this shirt we designed and we kind of create look-by-look, and then we look at it as a whole to see if it conveys our story or has the story actually changed. We start pulling in refrences from new (mood) stories, it’s a kind of natural evolution, but really it starts with the idea, and then it comes down to looking at fabric, and being inspired by the tangible quality of the fabrics, like the hand and the prints. We happen to usually be on the same page, you know sometimes we’re feeling the colour orange, sometimes the feeling is very abstract.
How are prints and patterns relative to your collections?
Nina: I think we are both really drawn to prints and patterns. I think we get excited by unusual combinations. We’ll also use the back of a pattern that has an interesting weave to create a pattern, I think we just really like texture.
David: I think you kind of get drawn to certain prints, and then you have a unique way to view them and mix them.
What is your favorite item in the Spring / Summer 2015 collection?
Nina: I really like the scuba shirt and the scuba dress. I love the color blocking on both and I love that you can really feel the aquatic wet suit reference but it’s really wearable at the same time.
David: It’s hard to explain my favorite one but it’s the circle shirt. The design has really been thought out. It has a section cut out of it and creates circle when its worn. It’s a hybrid set-in and raglan sleeve. It’s actually very cool. In this piece in particular, the technical aspect we spent a lot of time on the pattern, really trying to figure that out and to get it perfect, is really where its exciting.
Which part do you enjoy most? The process of creating, or the finished product?
David: There’s kind of a timeline: In the beginning it’s really exciting. It’s all just ideas in your head and the reality of things isn’t really there yet. Then, in the middle, it’s kind of the making process evolves. Then, you’re at the end you start seeing the pieces, and the looks start coming together, and you see it on the fit model. That part is really exciting. Once you do it all and the look book is done, and your on to the next thing already. There is a real up-and-down that goes into the process.
Nina: There is a real emotionally taxing, kind of exhausting but it’s really rewarding at the end. I enjoy the moment I’m in it. Creativity is a weird thing, like they’ve found that people are happiest sort of in the middle towards the end, that’s when people are the most in the zone, and the end doesn’t cause happiness, and the beginning is a bit frustrating, but there is a moment, and I definitely experience that moment. We’re in the process of seeing it come together.
What makes Alder New York different from other brands in terms of style?
David: It’s our unique point of view about fashion. We have our own ideas, and we also combine that with a focus on quality, and creating clothing that is being manufactured in a way that we think is the right way to do it. By people who are being paid well locally, and by people who know what they are doing.
Nina: I think it’s always going to be the designers point of view that sets them apart, and I think Dave and I have a nice mix in our designs as far as intelligence and thoughtfulness. The patterns are smart, the choices of fabrication are smart. There’s intelligence while also being really cool.
What needs to be done in order to take Alder New York to the next level?
Nina: So much! I think David and I right now, our big thing is we are ready to have a store front at some point, I think in the next five to seven years. I don’t know, who knows? But that’s an exciting idea. A lot of growth needs to happen. Right now it’s a very small operation, it’s us, it’s our factories, and then we have one person that works with us (sam) on a regular basis. It’s small but I think that building a team is probably the next step, and brand awareness. Probably by the time we have a store we’re going to want 15 other things. Eventually we’ll move into home goods, David really has a passion for fashion design, and it easily translates from fashion in terms of fabrics and all that. The Alder New York would be where you walk in and everything is Alder New York.
David: We really see Alder as a lifestyle brand. We have our line of apothecary, which we are slowly expanding. There is so many more products that we are working on as well as the clothing, so there is a lot we are trying to do all at once.
Who is your target market customer? What is the guy and the girl like?
Nina: I think women, in general, have a little broader understanding of fashion and the men are more focused. The man, even if he doesn’t live in the city, he is aware of cultural things. He’s interested in art, he’s interested in design, he doesn’t necessarily have to be an artist or a designer, but he appreciates those things, and he appreciates luxury and higher end experiences. It’s an expensive price point, and they know they are paying for the design and quality.
David: They are knowledgable customers, they’re smart customers, they know when you’re selling them something that’s not worth the price, and they really think about all the pieces.
Where can our readers purchase pieces from the collection, and the apothecary products?
Nina: At this moment, we do everything exclusively at aldernewyork.com.
Is there any advice you would like to give young designers or entreprenuers launching a brand in today’s economy?
Nina: I think persistence is your best friend with this industry, which does’nt mean you should drive yourself into the poor house, but it does mean if one thing isn’t working you should look into that and change it but just keep going, because it just takes a really long time to get your name out there.
David: It’s a lot of work. It’s really hard, and it’s going to be harder and really taxing on you more than you can imagine, but if you can handle that, just be persistent and not give up. Be prepared to work very hard.
What are your thoughts on GrungeCake? What comes to mind when you hear the name GrungeCake?
Nina: I think a little bit about Kirk Cobain and tutus.
David: I think of Courtney Love in a cupcake. It’s cool, and fashionable, and who doesn’t like cupcakes?
For more about Alder New York, just click here.