• home tour
    AT HOME AND AT WORK WITH ERNEST ALEXANDER SABINE
    The NYC-based menswear designer gives us a tour of his sprawling Chelsea loft - once a printing press, turned residential cabaret.
    Sept 16, 2014  |  BY TARIQ DIXON
    This summer marked the fifth anniversary of Ernest Alexander's eponymous menswear label - a brand founded from a single messenger bag.

    Ernest Alexander Sabine, a former ad executive and then student, struggled to find a suitable 'everyday' bag - one with polish and style, but nothing too delicate. An ongoing and unfulfilled search, he decided to create one of his own - a simple messenger made from a durable waxed canvas and handcrafted leather accents.

    Five years later, the brand has grown into a full line of leather accessories, a ready-to-wear collection, a brick-and-mortar store in Soho, and a GQ nod for 'Best New Menswear Designer in America.' But despite the company's success, its progress hasn't always met the founder's expectations. "I made a brand book when I started, and I found it in the basement the other day. It's funny to look back at what my goals were - how fast I thought things were going to grow." Perhaps unrealistic at times, those lofty ambitions continue to drive the brand forward - a rare momentum in an industry where success is generally fleeting.

    With the company's growth, Ernest's tastes as a designer have evolved alongside. Once deeply rooted in a classic, heritage aesthetic, Ernest Alexander has started to become "a little more posh," the designer says laughingly.
    Experimenting with new colors and patterns, while sticking to more classic silhouettes, the brand has come to reflect its diverse set of customers - which includes everyone from conservative gents, to the trendy street wear set.

    We better understood Ernest's range of design sensibilities after visiting both his NoMad studio and Chelsea home. The studio is broodingly masculine, abound with dark woods and aged leather, but his home is considerable more playful - color generously strewn throughout, and his two children embraced within the space. Referring to the dining table which doubles as the family's art studio, "It's covered with markers and coffee rings," he admits. "At first we tried really hard to keep it clean, but then decided to let it take on a character of its own." This type of irreverence is enhanced by self-made artworks that mimic the accidental scribblings on the table, alongside a series of vintage boat replicas and boldly re-upholstered furniture. It's a definite departure from how we've come to know the designer through his brand, but an endearing side of his personality we're happy to have discovered.
  • NOW THAT YOU'RE FIVE YEARS INTO IT, ARE YOU WHERE YOU THOUGHT YOU'D BE?

    I made a brand book when I started, and I found it in the basement the other day. It's funny to look back at what my goals were - how fast I thought things were going to grow. I've had a lot of great success, but it's been a lot of hard work behind-the-scenes. Things always take a lot longer than you expect. But I don't think it's ever good to feel comfortable - as soon as you do, that's probably the end! We always have to keep pushing ourselves to the next thing, whether it's adding to the line, expanding to more stores, a sale on the website - whatever it is, we always try to keep pushing.

  • WHAT ABOUT THE CUSTOMER? IS HE THE GUY YOU IMAGINED?

    When we first started the brand, we often wouldn't meet the people who supported the business. But now that we have a store, we get to see, and it's interesting - we're pulling a lot of different crowds. Our core customer works in advertising or finance or a startup, and he wants something enduring and classic, but a little more unique. It's the subtle details, the unexpected things that they appreciate. At the same time, we're also pulling in the cool, street wear dude who's buying some of the more specialty pieces. We have a nice balance of customers, which helps to keep the line interesting.

  • I don't think it's ever good to feel comfortable - as soon as you do, that's probably the end.

  • The brand is...more heritage-inspired and rustic. Our home has a lot more color, print and texture - more feminine aspects mixed with the masculine.

  • DO YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE BUILDING?

    Yeah, the building is about 100 years old. At one point it was a school, and then a printing press - at the right time of day you can still see the old lettering on the windows. We spotted this place about 3 years ago. There was a couple who lived here for 30 years who actually built a stage over half of the space. I think they hosted performances for their friends, like a cabaret. They told us that Bette Midler would come here and sing back in the 80s. But we didn't really have much use for a stage - we realized that if we tore that out, it would make this awesome, open living space. But yeah, there's a lot of fun history to this space.

  • WOULD YOU SAY THERE'S A DIFFERENCE IN AESTHETIC BETWEEN YOUR BRAND AND YOUR HOME?

    Definitely, I think the brand is a bit more serious - more heritage-inspired and rustic. Our home has a lot more color, print and texture - more feminine aspects mixed with the masculine, which makes it kind of cheery and more vibrant. Part of it is definitely my wife's influence, but for me, it's nice to be able to come home to a place that's a bit different - change the mood, shift perspectives, so it feels like home. I think that if everything were the same, I would never feel like I was away from work.

  • shop the story
    3 WAYS TO MAKE A STATEMENT
    Take a cue from Ernest and find a few ways to go big and bold in your home.
  • YOU OFTEN REFERENCE CAPE COD AS AN INSPIRATION FOR YOUR WORK - I CAN DEFINITELY SEE THAT IN YOUR HOME AS WELL.

    Yeah, I grew up outside of Boston, in Arlington. My parents have a small house on the Cape, so I would spend every summer there. New York has its own thing on Long Island, but there's something really special about the Cape... the water, the sailing. There's definitely a nautical influence in the clothes that we make, but also with the objects in our home. I collect these vintage pond racing boats - I have a quite a few, at this point. It's kind of dangerous when I get on eBay - I tend to go crazy! Ha, ha!

  • DO YOU CONSIDER THE SPACE MOSTLY DONE, OR DO YOU SEE IT EVOLVING FURTHER?

    I think it's a constant work in progress. We're always changing how the chairs are set up, what goes on the walls. I think that it's rare to ever feel totally satisfied with your living space, but I also think it's nice to have a living, breathing space that changes. Generally, in life, you can get in a rut when things start to go stale. Reconfiguring things in your home can really change your mood. I think it's good to try something new in the space at least every six months - it refreshes and energizes. I think your living space is a reflection of yourself - as a person you evolve, so I think your living space should evolve too.

  • It's nice to be able to come home to a place that's a bit different - change the mood, shift perspectives, so it feels like home.

  • shop the story
  • I think your living space is a reflection of yourself - as a person you evolve, so I think your living space should evolve too.

for access to the complete article, please
SIGN IN OR REGISTER
Close Lightbox