A Style Chat: Ernest Alexander’s Ernest Sabine & Instinct's Eric Launder
I recently attended a Summer kick off party thrown by Ernest Sabine, designer and founder of Ernest Alexander; A New York based line of menswear, bags and accessories. The event was held on a rainy June evening at Ernest’s beautiful Chelsea loft where mint juleps were served. The party was packed with editors and stylists from across the industry, all willing to attend despite the terrible weather. Attendance like this on a night like that is no small feat for a menswear company barely five years old. However, when you consider the attention to detail on an Ernest Alexander bag or the company’s commitment to keeping manufacturing alive in America, it’s no surprise at all. Here’s what Ernest had to say about Ernest Alexander.
Who is the Ernest Alexander man?
That’s a tough question because I think we have such a wide range of people who buy our products. I think the Ernest Alexander man is a person who appreciates today’s fashion, but is truly interested in buying a quality piece that has a story behind it. Our customer is someone who appreciates craftsmanship and wants to know about the ‘hands’ that went into making each piece. It’s someone interested in class and understated style and the finer nuances of life.
What is your greatest source of Inspiration when designing?
The greatest source of inspiration I have is just living in New York City. Everyday I walk out of my apartment in Chelsea and immediately my head is on a swivel; my eyes fixating on all these interesting people and things around me. I always get my best ideas walking from my place down 7th Avenue towards our store in SoHo.
What is the least likely place you’ve found inspiration?
Inspiration is very unpredictable. It can come from anywhere and at pretty much any time. I think my kids have been the least likely place I’ve found inspiration in recent memory. They are so uninhibited and naturally creative and curious, just watching my son or daughter play sometimes leads me down a path to a great idea.
Who are your style icons?
It may sound a little cliché now, especially with the menswear movement that’s emerged over the last couple of years, but my grandfather is probably my biggest style icon. I didn’t get a chance to know him well, but anytime I visit my family we always go through pictures of him when he was in his 20’s and 30’s. I’m always amazed at how impeccably dressed he was. It’s hard to find an image of him not in a perfectly tailored three-piece suit with beautifully polished shoes. My family actually still has most of his clothing. It’s neat to be able to rummage through things from decades past and look at how he might have put an outfit together back in the day.
What are 5 essentials for stylish men?
1. a great bag (of course)
2. a navy blazer
3. fun/interesting socks
4. worn-in, everyday sneakers
All your products are produced here in the United States of America. What made you decide to keep production local?
Both of my grandmothers were seamstresses. I can remember growing up, visiting them at their home, and seeing how hard they worked. Every piece they made or seam they tailored involved incredible attention to detail and such a labored effort.
When they came to the U.S. they worked hard sewing in the garment district for 30+ years. Now that I have my own line, I think producing here is partly homage to them.
In addition to that, there have been tremendous benefits for us during the brands initial inception and development especially in terms of quality control. It’s great now to be able to support local business and be a part of helping revive the once thriving manufacturing business here in New York.
You began by designing men’s bags. What do you think about when designing a bag and what are some of the unique features found on your bags?
It’s great to be able to design a bag that looks cool but, at the end of the day, is still practical for everyday use. Whether it’s a convenient slip pocket on the outside, an extra zipper or two, or working buckle closures, it’s important to make a timeless, functional piece. Obviously, our wax cotton is one of our signatures, but I think it’s the way we manipulate the fabric and the little details we add to each bag that make it feel a little more expensive. Stitching all our leather pieces all-the way around, double reinforcing our handles, and adding full linings to all of our bags help differentiate us from the competition.
Bedford Chocolate Wax Overnight Bag, $465.00
What luxury do you indulge in?
I’m not a very indulgent guy! But when I do reach for something a bit more luxurious it may be on something like a great pair of shoes or, hey, maybe even a nice bottle of scotch.
Any other exciting news to share?
Things are going well. We were nominated by GQ recently as one of the Best New Menswear Designers of the year, which is super exciting. We are in the middle of working on a collection with the Gap as a part of the nomination and simultaneously working on continuously developing our bags and getting our ready-to-wear pieces set for New York Fashion Week.
Where does Ernest Alexander retail?
You can find our entire collection at www.ernestalexander.com or at our retail location in SoHo at 98 Thompson Street. For a complete list of our stockists check us out on our website.