The veteran designer stages a comeback.
In his bright flatiron showroom in Manhattan, a gallerylike space not even a year old, Victor Alfaro is keen to show off his spring 2014 collection, his first in a decade. But make no mistake: The ’90s wunderkind and 1994 CFDA Perry Ellis Award winner isn’t making a “comeback,” a word that makes his eyebrow twitch. It’s a “return,” he insists—or, in today’s parlance, a “reboot.” “I’m blessed,” he clarifies. “Because I didn’t go broke, and I didn’t file for Chapter 11. We always sold clothes; we couldn’t produce enough. I left on really good terms. Plus, I didn’t have a scandal.”
It’s been nearly 20 years since Alfaro, 50, made his runway debut (and landed his first magazine feature in this publication). Born in Mexico, he arrived in the States in the early ’80s and went on to graduate from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. He soon charmed the fashion world with his sporty, minimalist clothes and dashing good looks, rising through the golden-boy ranks with the likes of Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez, and Isaac Mizrahi.
Then, in 1998, amid a wave of young-designer buyouts, Alfaro entered into an unsuccessful partnership with the Italian manufacturer Gilmar. “It was all wrong,” Alfaro says. “Like when you move in with someone and you realize you’re not compatible, that it’s not going to work, but you try anyway. It was a learning experience for me.” Eventually Alfaro was forced to buy back his own name, and for the past five years he has been designing a contemporary line for Bon-Ton. “It was a great experience,” he says. “And I’m still there for the home collection, Casa by Victor Alfaro. But I wanted to take a different turn with fashion and be more in control.”
Inspired in part by athletic wear, his new collection brings an even more streamlined approach to the original Victor Alfaro aesthetic. The pieces are sleek and body-conscious, made from high-tech, second-skin materials with cooling, antiwrinkle technology—think reversible stretch leather and neoprene-esque jersey. Many even come with tidy pockets to hold phones and iPads. The target customer? The type of woman who takes her hard-fought, Spinning-earned silhouette seriously.
This time around, Alfaro is starting small. He’s independently financing the line for now, concentrating only on U.S. stores, and avoiding the runway altogether. (“I would like to know who enjoys putting on fashion shows,” he says.) But it’s unlikely he’ll fly solo for long. He’s in talks with potential partners and plans to expand into men’s wear and further into accessories, building on the leather bags and shoes he designed for spring.
Of course, a lot has changed in 10 years, particularly fashion’s symbiosis with social media. Alfaro, however, isn’t particularly concerned about his lack of Instagram presence. “A lot of young designers sit around tweeting and twatting,” he says. “That’s fine, but for a pricey line like mine, I think it’s going to take more than that.” His ultimate goal is to make it into a lifestyle brand, but he’s not in any hurry. “For now, I come to the office, and when the door opens, I’m happy.”