How Ernest Alexander Got His Start

It took knocking on Garment District doors to get his line off the ground.

After graduating from Columbia University—and making a brief stop at the Guggenheim in Venice—Ernest Sabine (middle name: Alexander) found himself with a successful career in fashion advertising. But, then, it wasn’t exactly what he wanted—he was itching to create the sorts of things he was marketing. He quit his job and took business classes, simultaneously doodling patterns and trying to find someone to make them for him, tracking down old-school clothiers who don’t bother with silly things like listed phone numbers. Here’s how the pieces came together. —seth putnam

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Looks from his fall 2010 collection.

“I sensed that I loved being closer to the product. I thought one day I’d love to have my own fashion line. But when you’re young, there’s a scariness: How do you launch a company, or how do you even get anything made? Without having gone to fashion school, you’re on the outside.”

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Chalkboard sketch of one of his shirts.

“I remember schlepping down Seventh Avenue with a roll of fabric on my shoulder. Even now, I sit here and agonize over things: Should this button move half an inch down?”

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The big, happy Ernest Alexander team today.

“I always had this pipe dream. But it seemed far off; I thought, ‘One day, in 15 years.’ But Andy [Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos] gave a talk at Columbia and was passing around these really soft corduroy pants. These guys are Stanford MBAs, and here they are launching their own pants company. It really inspired me. I realized if you’ve got an idea and some smarts, you can do this. That’s what gave me the push and made me realize the dream was closer than I thought.”

You’re not gonna want to miss Ernest’s new carrier bag—check it out now.

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See All That’s In Store for Ernest Alexander

So much happening, you guys!

In only four years, Ernest Alexander Sabine has taken his collection from one bag—the perfect messenger—to a full-blown made-in-the-U.S.A. line that runs the gamut from oxford shirts and ties to overnighters, belts, and travel kits. And he’s opened his first shop, too. So what’s up next for the menswear dynamo? Ernest gives us the scoop. —alisha prakash

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"All our products are made in the U.S.A. That’s definitely a movement now, and we’re excited to be a part of it. Our bags are made right here in New York’s iconic Garment District. Not many companies can say that. Our factory is small—filled with character and extremely talented craftspeople. We’ve been working with them for over four years and developed a solid relationship."

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"This year we’re focusing our efforts on bags and accessories. We designed five new bags for our spring 2014 show. They’re all new silhouettes, and they’re beautiful. We’re getting more audacious with our patterns and combinations but still retaining a classic and fresh aesthetic."

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"We’re doing more limited-run products, like our first-ever classic charcoal blazer and an all-new puffer vest with leather accents. We’re releasing a limited-run bag collection with a rare Japanese camo print. We also just released a short-run Kenji shirt, which sports a subtly beautiful floral pattern."

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"We’re also adding an entirely new accessory line—more utilitarian-focused pieces for people who love details as much as we do. We’re doing a line of sleeves to protect your tech—gorgeously simple sleeves with premium leather."

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"We recently moved into our new office, and we’re building out of the showroom. Our showroom won’t just be a place to come and get a shirt; it will be a place to obsess over details and learn about our craft. It’s the entire experience of what we do—people will be able to see how we live it. We’ll have real tradesmen coming through, tailors, tanners, barbers, distillers, and more. I draw a lot of inspiration from the streets of New York—the sights, sounds, and people. Guys here are dressing better and better. Our design office is located right next to The NoMad, and I love people-watching."

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"The next level for Ernest Alexander is about introducing the brand to a ton of new people. We signed a deal with Nordstrom, and we’ll be in all their physical stores across the country next month. Our collection for the Gap hits stores at the end of this month. We’re really starting to see the beginning of a shift.”

See what Ernest created for his latest Of a Kind edition here!

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How Ernest Alexander Got His Start

It took knocking on Garment District doors to get his line off the ground.

After graduating from Columbia University—and making a brief stop at the Guggenheim in Venice—Ernest Sabine (middle name: Alexander) found himself with a successful career in fashion advertising. But, then, it wasn’t exactly what he wanted—he was itching to create the sorts of things he was marketing. He quit his job and took business classes, simultaneously doodling patterns and trying to find someone to make them for him, tracking down old-school clothiers who don’t bother with silly things like listed phone numbers. Here’s how the pieces came together. —seth putnam


Looks from his fall 2010 collection.

“I sensed that I loved being closer to the product. I thought one day I’d love to have my own fashion line. But when you’re young, there’s a scariness: How do you launch a company, or how do you even get anything made? Without having gone to fashion school, you’re on the outside.”


Chalkboard sketch of one of his shirts.

“I remember schlepping down Seventh Avenue with a roll of fabric on my shoulder. Even now, I sit here and agonize over things: Should this button move half an inch down?”


The big, happy Ernest Alexander team today.

“I always had this pipe dream. But it seemed far off; I thought, ‘One day, in 15 years.’ But Andy [Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos] gave a talk at Columbia and was passing around these really soft corduroy pants. These guys are Stanford MBAs, and here they are launching their own pants company. It really inspired me. I realized if you’ve got an idea and some smarts, you can do this. That’s what gave me the push and made me realize the dream was closer than I thought.”

Get on our email list to score Ernest’s edition tomorrow!

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Notes

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How Ernest Alexander Got His Start

It took knocking on Garment District doors to get his line off the ground.

After graduating from Columbia University—and making a brief stop at the Guggenheim in Venice—Ernest Sabine (middle name: Alexander) found himself with a successful career in fashion advertising. But, then, it wasn’t exactly what he wanted—he was itching to create the sorts of things he was marketing. He quit his job and took business classes, simultaneously doodling patterns and trying to find someone to make them for him, tracking down old-school clothiers who don’t bother with silly things like listed phone numbers. Here’s how the pieces came together. —seth putnam


Looks from his fall 2010 collection.

“I sensed that I loved being closer to the product. I thought one day I’d love to have my own fashion line. But when you’re young, there’s a scariness: How do you launch a company, or how do you even get anything made? Without having gone to fashion school, you’re on the outside.”


Chalkboard sketch of one of his shirts.

“I remember schlepping down Seventh Avenue with a roll of fabric on my shoulder. Even now, I sit here and agonize over things: Should this button move half an inch down?”


The big, happy Ernest Alexander team today.

“I always had this pipe dream. But it seemed far off; I thought, ‘One day, in 15 years.’ But Andy [Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos] gave a talk at Columbia and was passing around these really soft corduroy pants. These guys are Stanford MBAs, and here they are launching their own pants company. It really inspired me. I realized if you’ve got an idea and some smarts, you can do this. That’s what gave me the push and made me realize the dream was closer than I thought.”

Score the amazing canvas-and-leather purse Ernest made for us—part of his first women’s collection!

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The Story Behind the Finch Briefcase

For his Of a Kind edition, Ernest Alexander looks to his own personal style and to Gregory Peck.

Ernest Alexander Sabine thinks that the briefcase he made for Of a Kind works on any guy—or girl, for that matter. “I’d feel equally as comfortable carrying this bag to a job at a hip advertising firm as I would to a job as a hedge-fund manager in downtown Manhattan,” he explains. Below, he makes his hard sell. —seth putnam

Click here to nab one of the bags Ernest designed for us—before they get away!


Ernest’s sketch of his exclusive creation.

“The design is unique, but it’s still very wearable. It lets people to break out of their business suits without being over-the-top. It allows them an escape. It’s for the guy who doesn’t want to feel he’s part of the pack.”


Chocolate-y leather handles for the stand-out brief.

“Getting back to the roots of American manufacturing is very important to me. We’re using a beautiful gray, wax canvas for the outer that’s actually milled in New Jersey, about 50 miles outside NYC. The lining is this sweet navy twill from St. Louis, and the handles are a rich, brown leather—the color pairing is striking and different. That leather is finished right here in the Garment District. The whole bag is manufactured on 29th Street, just two blocks from our offices. It’s pretty amazing to be able to pop over there and see it.”


Ernest hard at work in his studio.

“What inspires everything we make, in a way, is my personal sense of style, which I’d say is sort of Anglo-British, urban, preppy, with a slight dash of dandy. Since it’s a workwear piece, we imagined a guy carrying it around town. You picture To Kill A Mockingbird and Gregory Peck with his masculinity and quiet resolve.”

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Notes

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How Ernest Alexander Got His Start

It took knocking on Garment District doors to get his line off the ground.

After graduating from Columbia University—and making a brief stop at the Guggenheim in Venice—Ernest Sabine (middle name: Alexander) found himself with a successful career in fashion advertising. But, then, it wasn’t exactly what he wanted—he was itching to create the sorts of things he was marketing. He quit his job and took business classes, simultaneously doodling patterns and trying to find someone to make them for him, tracking down old-school clothiers who don’t bother with silly things like listed phone numbers. Here’s how the pieces came together. —seth putnam


Looks from his fall 2010 collection.

“I sensed that I loved being closer to the product. I thought one day I’d love to have my own fashion line. But when you’re young, there’s a scariness: How do you launch a company, or how do you even get anything made? Without having gone to fashion school, you’re on the outside.”


Chalkboard sketch of one of his shirts.

“I remember schlepping down Seventh Avenue with a roll of fabric on my shoulder. Even now, I sit here and agonize over things: Should this button move half an inch down?”


The big, happy Ernest Alexander team today.

“I always had this pipe dream. But it seemed far off; I thought, ‘One day, in 15 years.’ But Andy [Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos] gave a talk at Columbia and was passing around these really soft corduroy pants. These guys are Stanford MBAs, and here they are launching their own pants company. It really inspired me. I realized if you’ve got an idea and some smarts, you can do this. That’s what gave me the push and made me realize the dream was closer than I thought.”

See how all Ernest’s hard work paid off. Score the canvas-and-leather briefcase he made just for Of a Kind.

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Meet Ernest Alexander

How prep school and grandmas can make a man—and a line.

As a student at the prestigious, all-boys Belmont Hill School near Boston, Ernest Alexander Sabine bumped headlong into a strict dress code: slacks, collared shirt, tie, jacket, no exceptions. “I got a Saturday detention for not having my tie all the way up,” Sabine recalls with a laugh. “I had a hard-ass Latin teacher who busted me.”

Despite the uncompromising rules, Ernest credits the school for influencing him stylistically. But his introduction to the world of clothes came via his grandmother and great-grandmother, seamstresses who escaped Latvia near the end of World War II. “The Nazis were closing in on them, and they came here,” he says. “I grew up in a household with old sewing machines and patterns. They’d copy the dresses they made during the day and bring them home to my mom. I just remember being like six years old and going through their old paystubs and thinking, ‘Oh my god—look how hard they worked.’”

No surprise here: Ernest has brought that same intensity his own classic, American-made menswear line, Ernest Alexander. After two and a half years of steadfast focus on the guy’s side of things, he’s gradually incorporating womenswear into the mix—a nod to those hustling matriarchs that got him started. —seth putnam

You’re going to want to get a load of this edition: It’s a sleek (but not stuffy!) brief you’ll want to carry every day.

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