Those Valley Pants
They say that when a woman finds that perfect fitting pant, she develops a lifetime of loyalty to that brand. Designer Alvin Valley had made believers out of women who included celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Sofia Vegara, Kim Kardashian, and Madonna—until the brand took a hiatus of sorts.
It has been a year since the designer brought back his eponymous label and is now not only the creative director but also the CEO of the brand.
Valley has been designing clothing with a maniacal focus on getting the perfect fit since 1995. This focus on fit stems from his architectural background and has garnered him the title “King of Pants.”
We caught up with him in his Chelsea showroom where he walked us through the challenges of relaunching the business, as well as providing us a sneak peek into the upcoming Spring ’14 collection, inspired by the ocean and his summers in the Hamptons.
Who is the Alvin Valley woman and how has she changed since you began designing for her?
[She] hasn’t changed, she’s evolved. I try to provide a collection of pieces that builds a wardrobe of essentials necessary for the modern businesswoman who is looking to express her individuality. This is an aesthetic aimed squarely at a discerning and confident woman who takes pride in her brands but would rather not parade any obvious fashion credentials/logos and for whom both modesty and discretion are of prime importance.
Now that you are the majority owner of the brand, you wear the pants (no pun intended). How do you feel juggling multiple hats: CEO, designer, and creative director?
Well, I don’t think much has changed. The goal has always been the same, which is to create designs that can be turned into product that sells. It’s not enough for me to create something beautiful if I can’t have many women wanting it. I have always considered myself a commercial designer.
Today I have a great supportive board that includes: RoAnn Costin, who is on many consumer boards and Kirsten Green, an expert with online businesses. They really have a feel for what my goals are and advise me on how to stay on track. This sort of advice is invaluable. I don’t know how I have done it in the past without that kind of support.
In the past, your pants sold for $450–$600 and now range $225–$350. Why relaunch your brand with a lower priced collection? Can we expect the same quality we have come to know in Alvin Valley?
I haven’t compromised on quality at all. When we were selling wholesale to department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, and Nordstrom, we had less margins than we do now. Now that we are direct-to-consumer via online, our margins are much larger and we are able to pass that on to the costumers.
We loved previewing the new “Duraflex” fabric you’ve created; it’s so comfortable, functional, and fashionable. What drew you to create this new blend?
I want this brand to be known for the technology that we can offer in the actual product. When I relaunched last fall, I developed a system inside the pants that would support and define the body. The belting that I created took two years to perfect. But that wasn’t enough, I wanted to engineer a fabric that also gave women a sense of support and comfort. That is key when I am designing a collection that goes from Desk-to-Date. It has to perform.
Where did you get the inspiration for your upcoming Spring collection?
This season I was inspired by sharks and doing some shark fishing off the coast of Montauk during the summer. We were trying to call it “Rogue” because I am inspired by women whom are trailblazers in business, in the community, and in life. Women like Angela Ahrendts, Lauren Remington Platt, Lauren Santo Domingo, Marissa Mayer, and Eva Lorenzotti—all women who wear the pants.
The prints were key to soften the mood for the collection, and we created them in-house with my team. One of them is a shark print, which looks amazing!
Can we preorder it?
Preordering is a key part of our business. A portion of my clients like to purchase things a season in advance, it’s a great method to forecast what works and doesn’t. But usually it’s only done at our atelier in Chelsea or via trunk shows. We are also working on doing online trunk shows for people to order special pieces that might not make it in the production run. I am doing trunk shows in Chicago, Boston, D.C., Dallas, and Miami.
Are you going to open a New York City freestanding store?
We are currently looking for a retail location in NYC. I want to develop a shopping experience that emulates a personalized session with the brand. Whether online, in store, or at our Flagship Atelier, I want to create an ambiance where women feel as though they are discovering the brand and a new element of themselves. My goal is to provide a space where my products can live, grow, and be exhibited with the same integrity with which they were created.
We love the fact that you keep your pants unhemmed so that we can get the perfect length. What made you decide to do so?
It was a conscious decision back in 2000, however, I do remember the first time getting a call from a buyer saying that they wanted to return the pants because they were not “finished.” I ship them that way because in menswear all trousers are unhemmed, giving men the feeling that there’s some tailoring/customization left to be done. The intimacy between men clients and their tailors is something that I would like to offer to women.
What brands do you shop for yourself?
I don’t have a specific brand, since I am a total mixer of high and low, but would say I am gravitating towards eclectic young up-and-coming designers such as D.Gnak by Kang.D and KTZ which is a very urban designer. I also love Saint Laurent and Tom Ford, mixed with Zara.
Are you an online shopper?
I am a multi-platform shopper. I love to shop online for things that I need to replenish, such as shoes, belts, jeans, underwear, cologne, pants, and shirts. But, I am also a very visual and tactile person, constantly wanting to touch and feel the product. I love [an] atmosphere where you get an emotional vibe, so I am drawn to stores, restaurants, clubs, museums, and galleries.
What are your ‘go to’ apps that you use at least once a day?
Daily, Uber, Instagram, Self Timer, Pitch Box, iTunes, Vine, and DuoLingo.
Where do you love to hang in the City?
The Beatrice Inn is great at the bar. Morandi for a bite at the bar with friends. But I am also loving The White Hotel in Williamsburg, Gwynnett Street, and Apotheke.
You live and work in Chelsea; what is your favorite local spot to eat and drink?
Bath Tub Gin, Chop Shop, and Cookshop are by far places I always go to. Omen for Japanese.
Pialy Aditya and Sonaly Aditya are fashion-tech entrepreneurs in the New York startup scene. Reach them on twitter @pialyaditya and @sonalyaditya
See original article here.