How Japanese Fabrics Influence Alex Drexler’s Clothing Design

Learning detail from a few Japanese brands.

Juan Chami

Considering Alex Mill is a clothing brand that champions subtlety and curation, Alex Drexler’s office is what you might expect of the 37-year-old founder. Shirts made of Japanese fabric and t-shirts in washed-out colors hang above rows of cashmere beanies and folded sweaters. Blown-glass fishing floats hang on a wall of reclaimed wood above a small, framed American flag, handmade from scraps of indigo-dyed fabric. Drexler carries a youthful excitement when explaining the nuances of the many fabrics that surround him here. “At Alex Mill, we like to have a sense of discovery in the details,” he says.

Drexler is well steeped in the garment industry. For starters, his father, Mickey, formerly held the reigns at Gap Inc, and is now the current CEO of J.Crew Group. Before Drexler started Alex Mill in 2013, he honed his chops in garment production working for Steven Alan and Gryphon. His experiences have manifested at his namesake brand with thoughtfully made menswear, where everything from the buttons on a shirt to the fabric is selected with purpose. Citing influences, Drexler is quick to mention Asia, and especially Japan, where his experiences have shaped the approach at Alex Mill.

“We’re looking at the texture, the handfeel, the weight, the color and how it washes,” he says. “To get that whole equation right is not always easy.”

“The Japanese have the most amazing eye for detail: stitches, buttons, all the little details,” says Drexler. “I find that the best fabrics — textured fabrics, super soft fabrics — they’re all Japanese.” Alex Mill uses an array of Japanese fabrics that Drexler helps develop, and the process is about finding the right balance between beauty and wearability. “We’re looking at the texture, the handfeel, the weight, the color and how it washes,” he says. “To get that whole equation right is not always easy.” Ease of maintenance is vital to Drexler, who designs shirts that can be washed and dried in conventional machines, thus removing the need to stop by the dry cleaner.

Though Drexler has collaborated with cult Japanese brand Omnigod, he is most inspired by Kapital, a Kojima Kurashiki-based brand started in 1984. “I think with Kapital — the pocket shapes, the placement of the pockets, the colors — it’s all quite unique,” he says. “I remember this sweatshirt: the purple color was faded in a way that was amazing. There’s something to be said about the amount of time they spend on wash and color.” Kapital’s attention to detail has overtly influenced Drexler, who for Fall ‘16 is releasing a line of pigment-dyed t-shirts, sweatshirts and Henleys. The shirts have a vintage aesthetic, and the washed-out colors and soft handfeel call to mind decades-old shirts that have been worn for years.

Alex Mill aims to make quality wardrobe staples for every man. “I say that our customer can be 21 years old or 71 years old,” says Drexler. There is an attention paid to fit and fabric that will make Alex Mill shirts a favorite of your wardrobe. Often it’s not bold or trendy clothing that becomes the daily uniform — it’s the simple, detail-oriented pieces that stand up to years of use. And in that straightforward philosophy, Alex Mill has set its roots.

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