Stranger 71, Day 71 – Meet Alex, the “Apparel Designer”

Stranger 71, Day 71 - Meet Alex

I met Alex at a retailer in the mall this morning. I really don’t like going to malls especially so close to the holidays. However, I wanted to check something out, so I went to the mall before it opened. When the store I was interested in finally opened, it was slow enough to ask the associate I was working with if he’d be my Stranger today, to which he was happy to do so.

And mind you, I told him I wasn’t going to buy anything today. In fact, I had already scoped out the product for a while before saying I would wait. (Just in case you were wondering he accepted just to complete a sale.) 🙂

Meet Alex, 26

Who are you?

“Young, professional trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Definitely still figuring it out. Day at a time. Not really knowing what’s going on. Not planning. Just jumping in, waking up, and just doing it.”

What are your passions?

“Apparel design. Outside of here, I, actually, have my own apparel design company that I’ve been working on launching for the last thee years.”

When are you going to do that?

“Hoping by the end of 2017.”

Why did you want to get into apparel design?

“My mom. I’ve always admired her, and she used to sew when I was a kid. I picked it up off of her.”

What did she sew for you?

“For me, Halloween costumes,” he laughs. “She did all of my costumes.”

What was your favorite?

“She made me a White Power Ranger costume because we couldn’t find my size.”

How else has she inspired you?

“Being the strong individual that she is. She’s very strong. Always motivated. Never negative. Smile on her face 24/7 even if she’s having a bad day. Definitely someone I aspire to be when I’m older, for sure.”

When you think about designing clothes and building that brand, are there any values or anything she’s done to inspire you that you want to make sure you carry over into that brand?

“Just passion and motivation. Make sure every piece shows there’s passion behind it and not have it as a second thing.”

What kind of fashion do you want to design?

“Women’s evening wear. I actually went to school for that.” He tells me how he went to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).

Meanwhile, I notice he has an Ohio State University bow tie on, and ask if he’s going to be supporting them for the game today (pretty much a given, but was curious where/ what he might add on to this).

“I am, and unfortunately, I’m stuck here!” he laughs. “The biggest game of the year, and I’m stuck here!” We’re referring to the OSU-Michigan game today in a Top-5 clash.

Why THE Ohio State?

“My dad went there. His whole family went there. I started my undergrad there, and then transferred to SCAD to finish it.”

Anything else that you’re really, really passionate about?

“Football!”

Why is football such an influential sport and part of our culture?

“Culturally, I’m not 100% sure. I know I do it because it’s the one thing that bonds my father and me. Yeah, football’s the one thing that bonds us together; whereas, my mom and I have always had a strong bond my entire life. My dad and I only bond on Saturdays during football season.” Alex laughs again.

Thinking about that bonding… what was your earliest bonding experience with your dad?

“When I was 10, he actually took me up to the Ohio State campus to watch the Michigan. We were at the 50-yard line.” So today was a real big day for Alex given today’s Ohio State game against Michigan.

“It’s a big day more so personally than it is actually for the game just because it is the BEST memory I had with my dad.”

Alex’s dad will be able to watch, and Alex will be at the store listening. I asked him if they were going to be texting throughout to which Alex responded, “Of course. Of course. As long as my other managers don’t talk to me, I’ll be good.” He laughs.

Going back to your passion of apparel design where do you see that going? Where do you want that to go?

“I mean, I’ll always aim big. Hopefully be a huge design like Dior and McQueen and all that. On a smaller scale, I, more so, want to work with different philanthropy programs, and work on maybe donating to different charities and use my name for positive instead of just fame.”

Why do you want to do that?

“It’s just always been something my mom’s instilled in me. Always make sure people know you came from humble beginnings. Don’t forget where you came from.”

I realize, too, that Alex is working in a retailer who really doesn’t have any apparel.

He admits that he hates folding clothes.

“And working with accessories and luggage, I’m learning a different side of the industry without having to hate the side that I actually love, if that makes sense.”

I asked him for some fashion tips given I have had some… constructive criticism at times. (Hey, I’m always trying to learn.)

“Style is something you acquire, not something that you learn.” Hmm, I hope I can learn something still!

So I asked him for a fashion tip for me/ men.

Alex instructs me, “Don’t wear flip-flops in public. Unless you’re going to a pool, a beach, or a gym locker room, don’t wear flip-flops.”

He adds, “hate when guys wear sneakers with suits. And then black shoes with a brown belt. Never do that.” *phew* I haven’t committed any fashion faux pas recently.

For me, I wanted some direct advice.

“I say always just go with what feels good on your body. Because at the end of the day, if you’re not confident in what you’re wearing, you’re not going to look good. Always make sure you’re confident in what you’re wearing, and don’t really care about what other people think.”

If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be? At any point in time, what would you change? (Thanks to Bruce, Stranger 70)

“That’s really tough. I probably would’ve stayed at Ohio State to finish my degree.” His degree was in early childhood education.

“And probably not be working in retail if I had done that. Probably stay and finish my original degree instead of transferring for a passion. And then, while working in that field go to classes for the passion. That’s probably what I would change.”

“Definitely, I would’ve focused more and stuck with the smarter route instead of… go with my head and not with my heart.”

What would you like to ask tomorrow’s Stranger?

“That is so tough.” He thinks. “Just cut all the crap and go deep…” Of course, if he wants to go deep. Doesn’t have to.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years? That’s a question I ask everyone. I feel like knowing someone’s future plans helps get to know them as a person now.”

After the handshake.

It’s been a few hours, but I’m still thinking about what Alex said about not pursuing his passion while in school, and instead, focus on the “rational” (or as he put it, “smarter route”). I think there’s a lot of commotion for people to follow their passions, and that’s indeed something I espouse. However, there’s also an element of diving into your passion without a safety net. The logic here is that you’re backed into a corner and have to make that passion/ business work. There’s no right or wrong answer here. Instead, it’s just making that decision and executing. For Alex, there is no reset button on college. He’s instead building his brand while doing what he needs to to live.

I also appreciated Alex sharing his earliest (/ fondest) memory with his father and how it coincided with the OSU football game. When I think back to one of my fondest memories with my dad growing up, I think about how we would go to a local baseball batting cage about 8PM. I’d be done with my homework, and he’d be done with work. We’d drive about 15 minutes to the batting cages (Grand Slam in Norcross), and I would practice for about an hour. After then, we would to a fast-food restaurant (The Varsity in Norcross) and order big things of ice cream in waffle cones (I would get simple vanilla while he’d get mint chocolate chip). We’d sit in my dad’s (and later mine) ’88 4Runner. We’d have so much ice cream that it’d start to melt, and he would show me to put the ice cream upside down in a cup so the ice cream wouldn’t drip everywhere. I’d then use a spoon to eat it. We’d sit there for about 30 minutes just eating. And I remember a cop walking up to our car sharing with us how much he loved his ’88 4Runner, and how he had taken off the fiberglass top to drive it convertible-style and had considered getting a “bikini top” for it. I include some details (just a small fraction) because that’s how vivid that memory was for me, and how powerful it was. I imagine Alex has a similar memory with his father at the game 16 years ago. Stories like Alex’s make me relive my own memories and recall so many great experiences and relationships.

Meet Alex. No longer a Stranger.

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