Executive Briefing

Alex Mill creative director Somsack Sikhounmuong on designing clothing for our strange new reality

And: What a week!

The apparel industry has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic for several reasons, including store closures, reduced foot traffic and tourism, economic depression, and the fact that — between fewer social events and a massive shift to remote work, away from office culture — there’s just less to dress for.

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New York City metro office occupancy

So I thought it would be interesting to continue my Designing for what’s next series by speaking with clothing designer Somsack Sikhounmuong, who joined New York-based Alex Mill as creative director and partner after leading design at J.Crew and Madewell, which he left in 2017.

(Alex Mill was founded and is led by Alex Drexler, whose father is retail legend and former J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler.)

Alex Mill, if you’re not familiar, focuses on the sort of nice, practical-but-not-boring clothes that you could wear to work every day but also to a party or just to the grocery store.

“Uniforms for individuals” is the brand’s hashtag tagline, and as someone who has very much cultivated a personal “uniform” — although it’s a bit more casual these days — I’m particularly curious where the concept goes from here.

How do you design for people whose very purpose of wearing clothing has changed so much — and isn’t likely to change back for a while?

“The philosophy behind everything we design hasn’t changed,” Sikhounmuong tells me. The company, he says, has always focused on “making sure we get pieces that are easy to care for, stylish, comfortable, well-made.”

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Dan Frommer

Hi, I’m Dan Frommer and this is The New Consumer, a publication about how and why people spend their time and money.

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