It all started with a tank top.
While searching for the perfect underpinning to go with a pair of Yves Saint Laurent pants, Alex Kramer came across a silk ribbed fabric. Today, that silk ribbed tank top is her favorite piece from the very first collection of her eponymous fashion line.
The born and bred New Yorker always knew she wanted to create her own line. Her parents were interested in fashion, her friends were the children of designers, and she spent time in Europe growing up, which introduced her to luxury clothing. She worked as a photo editor, took on gigs and collaborated with other designers on their lines. Eventually, she decided to take the plunge.
“It’s sort of been in my blood,” Kramer said.
“I finally said, ‘I’m just going to go for it and do my own line.’”
“New York is the most inspiring city. Everywhere you look there’s something beautiful. When I’m designing patterns it could be as simple as seeing the grating of a gate on the door to someone’s house.”
The spring line—available at Barneys and Barneys.com—features sheath dresses and cigarette pants in ponte, skirt and top separates, and sports-inspired pants and cocoon jackets in silk jersey. The pieces blend sophistication with ease and are the epitome of Kramer’s self-proclaimed style-classic with a twist.
“These are clothes that I would wear to pick up my kids, or go shopping, or go to a gallery opening, or to a Hamptons party in the summer,” Kramer said. “There are tops I can throw on with jeans and then there are little dresses that I can wear during the day and also for the evening.”
Clothes that transition easily are important to Kramer; not only is she at the helm of a ready-to-wear line, but she is also balancing work with motherhood.
“I would say I’m a juggler at this point,” Kramer said. “I have a little glamour and then I also have a little grit.”
When her children—Olivia, 11; and Zander, 9—were younger, committing herself to designing her own line wasn’t an option. But now that they are a little older, Kramer says it made room for her to do something she has always been passionate about. “There are definitely days where I’m busier than others,” she said. “But I’m managing.”
It seems that balancing is something that comes naturally to Kramer. After graduating from Georgetown University with an English degree, she began working at Hamptons Magazine, where she took on many different roles. “I got to wear a bunch of hats at once,” she said. “I was exposed to photography, fashion, and I also got to write.”
From there she went on to create her own urban style magazine, Manhattan Style, with longtime friend Cristina Greeven Cuomo. She then began working at hip-hop magazine The Source as the photo editor.
“We dressed Foxy Brown in Chanel, which was pretty different at the time,” Kramer said with a laugh. Later, she became head of visuals for luxuryfinder. com, one of the first online luxury shopping destinations. She eventually left the site to have children—but soon enough she was back to work, collaborating with Carlos Miele on his first line. She also designed his first Miele by Carlos Miele line, which consisted of 180 pieces.
Her project with Carlos Miele made her realize designing her own line was an attainable dream. Fast forward about five years and people like Gayle King can be spotted wearing Kramer’s designs.
For her first collection, Kramer said she didn’t have to look far for inspiration. “New York is the most inspiring city. Everywhere you look there’s something beautiful. When I’m designing patterns it could be as simple as seeing the grating of a gate on the door to someone’s house.”
Kramer is also inspired by vintage clothing—and she has a collection to prove it. Her favorite piece is a beaded Bill Blass leopard print dress. “I love how it’s a classic shape, but it’s beaded completely and it’s on chiffon so it’s got this weight to it,” she says. She began collecting vintage pieces when she was young and attributes her sense of luxury to those items, which she still incorporates into her wardrobe.
In order to prepare herself to design a fall collection oozing with luxury, Kramer went back to school, enrolling in intensive Photoshop and Illustrator classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She used what she learned in class to design a crocodile relief knit that is a more subdued version of an animal print.
“I like animal prints, but sometimes they can get a little loud,” Kramer said. “What could be more luxurious than crocodile skin? To me, that’s the ultimate luxury.”
Although motherhood and designing her own line keep Kramer busy, she still finds time to pursue another interest—museums. “I live a block away from the Met so I’m always there,” she said. She likes the larger museums, like MoMa and the Guggenheim, but she also enjoys galleries like Gagosian. “My vision is not tunnel vision when it comes to art,” she said. “I like to keep my mind open.”
So what’s next for a fashion designer who has seemingly done it all, from writing for a magazine to creating her own magazine to styling hip hop stars? “I’m working on the next spring collection, but other than that…” she said, laughing before she can utter the rest. “Total world domination. Does that sound good?”