Alex Drexler has a few ideas about what men in New York want to wear.
For those who might frequent stores in Soho or Tribeca on a given afternoon, it’s all about the man uniform: the right button-down, the best jeans. The perfectly fitted tee shirt. Subtle and casual, but extremely deliberate.
“There is nowhere that has men who are more discerning than downtown New York,” says Drexler, whose Alex Mill brand recently opened a storefront on Elizabeth Street.
Indeed, the 35-year-old son of J.Crew head Mickey Drexler is banking on the fact that downtown New York men care about details. A lot.
“It’s this idea that despite all the shirts out there it is still hard to find the right shirt, and if a guy was ever able to find that one shirt he could never find it again the next season because the fit was changing, or it felt different,” he says. “So this store is about the men’s uniform, which is the shirt, the jeans and the T-shirt that every guy wears.”
Drexler never planned to go into retail—he attended Cardozo School of Law with aspirations to join the FBI before working in print production and doing time at Steven Alan and Gryphon, but he found himself always searching for a decent flannel or cotton shirt. Apparently it was easier to just make his own.
Alex Mill menswear launched earlier this year in places like Barneys New York and Odin in New York City and Tokyo’s United Arrows, but the Nolita location opened this past year. It was a matter of finding the right space: The 400-square-foot former bakery retains its original pressed-tin ceilings and wood plank floors. Vintage cameras line the walls; canvas bags and heritage grooming products augment the clothing.
“It really had a cool neighborhood vibe,” Drexler says—it was the first place he examined.
His demeanor is laid back (he has no assistant and often talks with customers himself while in store) but hyper-alert, in tune with his wares. (You can see he inherited a strong sense of business, proper order and method; Drexler credits his father with teaching him how to work well with people.)
The brand “uniform” is high-quality classics like Japanese-cotton button-downs ($145), cotton fleece hoodies with raglan sleeves ($155) and selvedge-denim jeans ($245) that cater to guys who care about uniquely-stitched buttons, tiny embroidered lettering and perfectly positioned seams. It capitalizes on the idea is that those who appreciate such pieces will buy them repeatedly.
“We have a T-shirt that is a faded black color,” Drexler explains. “It’s not black. It’s not faded. It’s faded black. It’s very specific. Guys love that faded black color, and when they find it they’re like ‘wow!’ and they want to find multiples of it.”
But does he hate the inevitable comparisons that come from running a clothing line as the son of a well-known fashion CEO? Not really, he says. Name recognition helps, but most men are grown enough to make their own decision when it comes to what they wear. Especially in New York.
“I always say people are going to judge a brand on whether or not they actually like it, especially in clothing,” Drexler says, philosophically. “I think the product will speak for itself.”
268 Elizabeth Street
New York, NY 10012
– Hannah Elliott