Twenty-nine-year-old fashion designer Alexandra Alvarez never planned to launch her own brand. After working in sales at Lanvin, she became interested in fashion and enrolled at Parsons. As a student, the Miami native focused on designing elaborate, fanciful skirts, paired with simple bodysuits. It was during the preparation for her senior fashion show that she discovered that "good bodysuits had gone extinct," and therefore a hole in the market. In 2014, Alvarez launched her label Alix — and now, she's expanding her collection to include swimwear. "Designing bodysuits naturally led me to swimsuits," the designer, who counts Chrissy Teigen and Kendall Jenner amongst her high-profile fans, explains. "Buyers and close friends kept saying they’d love my bodysuits as swimsuits, so I decided to test it out and see where it would lead me." Here, Alvarez explains the challenges of launching a new label in New York, the key swimwear trends of the season, and more.
What do you love about swimwear? Being from Miami, I spent every weekend growing up in a swimsuit — either at the beach or on the boat. This lifestyle was a huge asset to developing my swimsuits. So much of the swimsuits you wear depends on your mood and the occasion, so I wanted to create classic pieces that were functional and could be worn more than one way.
What was the experience of getting your business off the ground? When I was 25, I showed up at a factory I found on Google with one basic bodysuit design asking if they would help me find a patternmaker that understood swimsuits, or could help me out in any way. They asked me what company I was with, and I responded simply, “My name is Alix.”
Let’s just say I had no idea what I was getting myself into but one thing was for sure, I believed in making these bodysuits come to life. The struggle was real for about two years. I was living by myself in the city, working day and night. I tested out fabrication after fabrication and worked on only one single piece until I mastered the right quality and fit. I love what I do, but to make it in this industry you have to be prepared to sacrifice a lot.
When did you first feel like you had made it? It was definitely when Net-a-Porter placed a re-order their first season carrying ALIX. This blew my mind. I remember being so nervous about their order and praying my sell through would be decent. I hit 98% sell-through… I still don’t believe it some days!
Has there been a favorite moment since you launched? Having the CFDA select Alix to be a part of the Incubator 4.0 class. The opportunity to work with such successful and inspiring mentors from every facet of the fashion industry, as well as sharing the floor with designers whom I can relate to, is such a privilege.
What were the main pieces you began with? I started swimwear by taking one of my classic bodysuits and testing it out in various swim fabrications. This turned into the Delano One-piece. From there I cut the Delano One-Piece in half and started working on a staple top and bottom, which led me to create the Standard Bikini Top, and Normandy High Waist Bottom.
What styles are most popular with your customer? The Sagamore Top, and the Shelborne One-Piece have gotten a lot of love! I think women really relate to investment pieces, which I try to always think about. The Sagamore for example can be worn with the shoulder strap buttoned into the bandeau for an edgier look or without as a classic bandeau top… I think of it as trying to creatively give my customer as much as much possible from each style.
What swim trends are you seeing among women right now? One-pieces everywhere! All ages — it’s amazing.
Is there a certain beach that inspires you? Every summer when I was growing up, we would travel to different islands in the Bahamas, Harbor Island is my favorite. The water, the sand — everything there is paradise.
If one of your swimsuits could be packed by a style icon and taken anywhere, who would the icon be and where would she go? Miroslava Duma in a Shelborne one-piece in Cap-d-Antibes. #Goals
Talk to me about your plans for the future. What’s next? Now that we are a part of the CFDA Incubator, I really want to utilize the mentors and tools available to build out the business side of Alix to its full potential. I want to keep creating suits that people will love, and to make all girls Alix girls! We just debuted our Resort 2017 and Spring/Summer 2017 swim lines at Swim Week in Miami and I cannot wait to share the new styles and colors.
Alvarez and the other members of the CFDA Incubator 4.0 class share their travel secrets: