Who forecasted the bodysuit trend?
Alexandra (Alix) Alvarez founded her bodysuit line, ALIX, in September 2014. The launch happened shortly after graduating from Parsons, where she majored in Fashion Design. Alix has since expanded the line to offer swimsuits as well. Her collection can be found at Net-A-Porter, Fivestory NY, FWRD, Moda Operandi, Opening Ceremony, Plan De Ville, Revolve, Shopbop and more. She kickstarted the bodysuit trend before anyone else was concentrating on this category and it has since blow up. Discover her journey below:
Where do you find inspiration? I initially began with classic silhouettes and continued to create fresh pieces each season. The city and the people inspire me to design for a woman who is young, strong and on-the-go. Color also inspires me - it's a crucial aspect and really ties a collection together in the end.
Did you learn how to produce a collection in school? School taught me how to create a collection overall and develop a concept, so I keep that in mind, but cater my knowledge to bodysuits. I introduce different fabrications, such as poplin, jersey, and silks, each season. People love the fabric and fit, so while the bottom fit stays the same, I add new silhouettes to the top. I keep versatility in mind, and want them to work with skirts and pants.
How did you find a factory and fabric to use? When I first started out, I found a factory through recommendations. Fabric-wise, I sourced from various mills for fabric that had a certain type of softness, but offered support. I wanted to make sure I was very particular about the feel of the fabric. Once I did that, I had to jump the gun and order 500 yards before I received any of my first orders so making sure the fabric was just right to invest in was crucial.
Was it difficult launching a collection so soon after graduation? Yes, it was very difficult not having experience, especially since I am a perfectionist and wanted to make my bodysuit just right.
Did you always know you wanted to start a brand? My father is an entrepreneur, and from his example, I've always wanted to have my own business. I had to start with baby steps to get people used to the idea of a bodysuit, but I played my cards right, and the market was ready for it. When I launched my collection, there was nothing really out there in terms of a bodysuit line.
What does your day-to-day look like? My days vary because not only do I have to do my part as a designer, I have to do my part as the head of the company, so my team relies on me for answers. During the day, I try to schedule myself to cater to what others need from me so that towards the end of the day, I can do my own individual work. There's a lot of problem-solving involved in what I do.
What has been your favorite experience launching a collection? Being able to create a product that women truly feel confident in has been my favorite. It’s what inspires me everyday when I'm designing and working on new collections.
What has having a mentor meant in growing your business? It means everything. I talk to my mentor all the time. The mentors have immense experience, and they know how to fix issues immediately. My mentor helps me find solutions, work smarter and address situations calmly.
Tell me about the decision to apply to the CFDA and how you felt when you found out you were picked. I was sent the application, but felt unsure in the beginning because I thought it would be a ton of work on top of the work load I already had. Regardless, I knew it was a great opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. About a month after turning in my portfolio and application, I got an email stating I was a semi-finalist and that they wanted to schedule an interview with a member of the board. During the interview, I shared insight into my brand and just stayed true to myself. Eventually, I got the news that I had been picked and I couldn’t believe it. It was such an honor to have been selected.
Describe the CFDA Fashion Incubator. The incubator program is made up of 10 designers, including myself. We moved into the Incubator Studios in February 2016 (we rent the space ourselves). The program lasts 2 years and we are allowed to pick a new mentor every 6 months depending on the needs of the company as it develops. Each designer also gets a business activation, which means we can choose an event that would ultimately be beneficial for our business, since most of us aren’t capable of funding a somewhat elaborate event. For mine, we flew down to Miami and held a pop-up shop for Miami Swim Week in July, which was a huge success. W Hotels (who sponsors the program) also sends us on an inspiration trip where we incorporate that experience into designing a collection. I chose Koh Samui, Thailand, for my trip and got to go in May - it was dope.
What has been your favorite experience during the incubator process? Looking back, I wonder who I would be able to seek advice from had I not been involved with this program. I'm incredibly thankful for my mentor, and have met so many experienced professionals with great insight. Also, being able to talk to the other designers in the program is helpful because it's easy to feel alone as a young designer in this industry. We are all in it together and we shift between good and bad days. We always support one another, which I find truly valuable.
What was your plan and process like pitching your line to retailers? By taking baby steps. I didn't want to over-extend myself and focused on the strongest accounts that I felt were right for my brand. My first employee had a sales background, so I started with sales in-house. I attended trade shows here in New York and started talking to buyers and pitching the idea of why bodysuits were such an essential item for women to have in their wardrobe. I also mailed out lookbooks with personalized handwritten notes to all the account I was focusing on. The biggest hesitation I received from stores were where to place my product because the category was so specific. I was designing my bodysuits as contemporary pieces to pair with denim, pants, and skirts. Educating buyers and pitching that my product was more like a top and not lingerie was a huge challenge in the beginning. However, over time stores began to pick me up and it was really exciting. I still haven’t done much in the international market. I think it’s important to have everything in line and successful domestically before continuing to expand.
How did you learn to create and run a company? I’m still learning, and take it day by day. Everyday is a lesson. There are no rules and I learn that more and more.
What advice would you have for someone interested in starting their own company? You need to be passionate in order to make it in this industry. It’s important to trust your gut. You never know to expect, but you have to be willing to find solutions and always stay positive. In this business, problem solving is crucial. Everyday is a challenge, and that's okay. You have to figure out how to make it work.
What is it like walking down the street or going out and seeing someone wearing one of your pieces? It makes my day. There’s nothing I love more than seeing someone look and feel great in one of my pieces.
Explain the life cycle of one of your garments. The majority of the main fabrications we currently use are imported from Canada, Italy and Japan. Once market ends each season and we receive our orders from all our retailers, we can gauge the amount of fabric necessary for production and place fabric orders. All the fabric gets shipped to our factories in New York within 6-8 weeks, depending on the mill or quality. Once the fabric arrives, the cut and sewing process begins. After each piece gets sewn, everything gets packaged in ALIX bags and carried over to our warehouse where we pack and ship out all the orders for stores. It’s about a three-month-long process.