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How Ernest Alexander Got His Start

It took knocking on Garment District doors to get his line off the ground.

After graduating from Columbia University—and making a brief stop at the Guggenheim in Venice—Ernest Sabine (middle name: Alexander) found himself with a successful career in fashion advertising. But, then, it wasn’t exactly what he wanted—he was itching to create the sorts of things he was marketing. He quit his job and took business classes, simultaneously doodling patterns and trying to find someone to make them for him, tracking down old-school clothiers who don’t bother with silly things like listed phone numbers. Here’s how the pieces came together. —seth putnam


Looks from his fall 2010 collection.

“I sensed that I loved being closer to the product. I thought one day I’d love to have my own fashion line. But when you’re young, there’s a scariness: How do you launch a company, or how do you even get anything made? Without having gone to fashion school, you’re on the outside.”


Chalkboard sketch of one of his shirts.

“I remember schlepping down Seventh Avenue with a roll of fabric on my shoulder. Even now, I sit here and agonize over things: Should this button move half an inch down?”


The big, happy Ernest Alexander team today.

“I always had this pipe dream. But it seemed far off; I thought, ‘One day, in 15 years.’ But Andy [Dunn, the CEO of Bonobos] gave a talk at Columbia and was passing around these really soft corduroy pants. These guys are Stanford MBAs, and here they are launching their own pants company. It really inspired me. I realized if you’ve got an idea and some smarts, you can do this. That’s what gave me the push and made me realize the dream was closer than I thought.”

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