Many of the career-changing stories we hear about involve moving industries. Migrating from one space another seems the most story-worthy, and those stories are certainly everywhere – the tale of a big-city lawyer becoming a mindful ceramic artist, an overwhelmed doctor who becomes a teacher, or maybe a writer who decides to put their helping hands to a different kind of work and becomes a social worker.
But big career changes aren't always the neatly -packaged, industry-jumping sort. Sometimes, they involve staying in the same industry and moving from one end of the spectrum to the other – and that's a change that can be just as big and sometimes feel even bigger.
Alexis Mera made that very jump in early 2015. Starting in product development, production, and merchandising in the sleepwear industry, she transitioned to entrepreneur, designer, and boss-gal business owner. Almost two years later and, though the brand is still in its early phases, it certainly seems like Alexis has survived that transition just fine.
Here, Alexis takes us behind the scenes of her Brooklyn-based line.
Tell me about the background of your line, Alexis Mera. How did it get started?
My background is in the sleepwear industry, with a focus in Merchandising, Product Development, and Production. I always wanted to have a business of my own, and while I wasn’t always sure what that business would be, I knew I wanted to have one.
After working in fashion for nearly a decade, starting my own line was a natural shift. When we launched in early 2015, the line started more as a loungewear concept, but loungewear that was meant to be seen. Very quickly after our launch, the line evolved more into an athleisure concept. Women were asking me if they can wear our Jogger Pants to yoga (the answer is of course, yes). Athleisure is not only a clothing trend, it’s a lifestyle trend, and we are excited to be part of it.
Starting a project like this and watching it evolve is really amazing. We’re working on an amazing activewear capsule collection for Spring/Summer 2017. Stay tuned…
Can you describe your creative process? How do you design a piece, from start to finish?
The line is very print driven with a few solid essentials layered in. The design process is not always the same for every piece or collection. Sometimes we find a print we love, then try to figure out which bodies it would work best for. Other times we see a silhouette that we know we need, and find a fabric or print to fill in.
For the most part, there's a lot of trend research before we start designing our next collection. There’s also a lot of analysis of previous prints/colors/styles. What’s most important to us is that our fabrics are extremely soft and comfy next to the skin – we want women to feel super comfortable in their AM gear. We’re known for our buttery soft fabrics and vibrant prints. After we’ve designed the collection we hit the road and go to trade shows, once we’ve received a reaction from the industry, stores, customers, and even friends, we decide what we will move forward with in production.
Can you tell us what role fabrication plays in the design process? What about print?
Fabric quality plays a HUGE role in the design process. We have very strict standard for the fabrics that we use. We don’t like stiff or rigid fabrics, and are always working to find the softest fabric hand possible. As I mentioned above, we are very print driven, so each season we try to find 4 – 6 prints that we think our customers will love.
You’re proudly a New York designer. How does your production process work, and why is it important to you to produce your collection in New York?
Production is probably my least favorite part of having a line. It’s not creative at all – you’re constantly problem solving, and it can be stressful at times. However, my background in production has really helped me here. A good production manager is like gold. There are so many moving parts, and I have learned SO much, whether it be about the construction of a garment, pattern making, sewing details, or even shipping. We currently produce our entire collection at a factory on West 36th Street in the Garment Center. Our factory also sews all of our samples, so when we go into production, it’s a pretty smooth transition as we’ve already perfected the sewing and fit.
Keeping my production in New York is a choice I’ve made mainly because of the control I have over the process. When an order is in production I stop by the factory at least once a week to check on things. It’s really great to be able to do that, because the level of quality control is unbeatable. It also helps to be able to communicate with the factory owner and other employees face to face, rather than via email. It makes the process much faster and more smooth.
Is there a single piece that you feel quintessentially represents the brand?
We are known for or Cortelyou Jogger Pants. They are actually named after the street our studio is located off of in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.
What’s one thing you’d want people to walk away knowing about your work?
My main goal is to make sure women feel comfortable in our line and feel comfortable in their own skin. We want you to just be you.
And just for fun–
If you weren’t living in New York, where would you live?
I was born and raised in New York State and have lived in NYC for 13 years now – and there’s no place like it. My husband is from Brazil, so maybe there? Or, my father is from Holland, so that would be another fun place to live for a while.
Who do you think is just killing it right now? An artist, designer, author, filmmaker, etc.
Won't argue there.
Shop Alexis Mera here, and follow her here and here, and find more independent designers to love and support through the directory which now has maybe 500 or so (?) emerging designers, artists, and retailers. Regardless, enjoy!