Local fashion designer Alexis Mera was so inspired by the neighborhood that she named all of her pieces after streets in the neighborhood. Now she has a popup space in Manhattan at The Market NYC, 159 Bleecker Street, where she sells her leisurewear Wednesday through Sunday.
We sat down with Alexis to learn more about what it takes to design your own clothes, where she gets her inspiration, and where she likes to hang out in the neighborhood.
DPC: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Alexis Mera: I’m from a small town in New York called Cortlandt Manor and I came to the city to attend FIT in 2003. I actually started there as an interior design major and then switched out and decided to do fashion merchandising, so that’s how I go into the fashion industry. I’ve been working different jobs in fashion, mostly in merchandising, in sleepwear. From there, I combined my background and experience with my desire to start my own thing.
I always really wanted to have my own business. I don’t think I really knew what it was going to be. To be honest, I never really dreamed of being a fasion designer, but it kind of came to me in the end. I wanted to create something that’s easy to wear and comfortable, versatile. Something that women could wear anywhere, from yoga to brunch. You can sleep in my line, you can dress it up with heels, you can really mix it up.
I moved to Ditmas park a year and a half ago. I live right off of Cortelyou. I really like the neighborhood. When my husband and I came here to look for apartments it was like, oh my goodness, I can’t believe this place exists. I think we’ll stay for a while.
When did you start the clothing line?
I started the concept in the summer of 2014 and then launched the line in February of 2015. It’s very new. I initially started as an e-commerce business with my website, but now I’m selling wholesale as well. It’s all made in New York, which is really important to me. I do all of the designs, as well as all of the administrative work from my apartment.
It’s been a rollercoaster so far. It’s been tough, but it’s been great.
What has the response been like for your line so far?
The biggest challenge is getting people to see it. I have a small budget so I don’t have a lot of room for marketing or advertising. I’ve had a great response to the floral print jogger pants, I’ve already had to make more. It’s just interesting to see how different people percieve the line. Initially when I launched, I was sort of positioning it more as a loungewear and now it’s kind of evolved and people are seeing it as, it could be active, it could be lounge, it could be leisure. So it’s really interesting to see how it’s evolved and how people perceive it.
What is your process for designing?
First I look for the fabric. The styles are more minimalist so it’s really important to me that the fabrics are super soft and super comfortable, really great quality. And in the case of the floral jogger pants, I also look for prints. I go to the fabric mills and I look at the prints that they currently have available. At this time I’m not designing my own prints but I’m buying prints. It would be nice to be able to design and use my own prints, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
Then I work with pattern-makers and designers to create the silhouettes and the different styles. And then it goes to sampling. It’s produced in New York City in the garment center in a small factory on 38th Street. Then we do photography and get it on the website. Then working to get it out there.
And I’m basically doing it all. Luckily my husband helps me a lot with the website, he’s a software engineer, so that has been very helpful.
Does the neighborhood inspire you?
The way women dress in Brooklyn has been an inspiration to me. It’s a more casual lifestyle, so that has been an influence on my design. I also name all of my pieces after streets in Ditmas Park, so there’s the Cortelyou jogger, the Ditmas bodysuit, the Rugby boxershort.
Do you have a favorite piece?
It’s funny because when I first launched I really loved all the stripes, but lately I’ve been liking the solids. I don’t know if its because I see everything every day, but definitely the joggers. I think they are the most versatile. I think you can wear them anywhere.
What are some of your favorite places in the neighborhood?
I love working at Cafe Madeline. I can sit here all day long and no one will bother you. I sometimes have two meals in a day there. I don’t usually work anywhere else in the neighborhood, but I love being able to get up and go for a walk through the neighborhood and take a break.
And we love going to Ox Cart Tavern on Sundays, it’s just so laid back and wonderful.
Do you have any other hobbies or pastimes?
My work sort of is my hobby, which is great. But I also volunteer with a women’s nonprofit called Step Up, which offers mentorships for girls. I donate a portion of the sales from my website to the organization as well.
In addition to the pop up shop, you can shop Alexis’s line at her website, alexismera.com. Use the code DITMASPARK for 15 percent off at checkout. Or, if you are in the neighborhood, Alexis takes appointments on Mondays and Tuesdays, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment to come and shop the line.