Ask Alexandra: Last Month’s Mailbag

Ask Alexandra is my advice column. Have a question you want to ask me? Fill out the form here. Below are a few letters I’ve received recently that I thought I should answer…

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Scotch & Soda menswear.

Dear Alexandra,

I’m looking to start a t-shirt line for men using the best possible fabrics available on the market. I live in Los Angeles, CA but the best fabrics I’ve seen are from foreign brands such as Scotch & Soda and other UK brands. Where would I be able to get the same or close to the same quality of fabric the UK designers use on their clothing. If you have other info on Scotch & Soda and their manufacturing process that would be very helpful as well. Thanks!

Dear James,

This is meant to be an advice column on general fashion queries, not a specific sourcing and manufacturing helpline. So no, I can’t tell you about Scotch & Soda’s suppliers or manufacturing process, and the fact that you are asking me this question raises concerns about how much you know about the garment industry. I don’t encourage people who have no fashion industry experience to start their own brands, but if you insist, then I would suggest you read up on how to source fabrics (I’ve got some info here) and be prepared to face a lot of frustration because sourcing suppliers for a new fashion company is no easy task! That’s why most of us work in the industry first, learn the ropes, and then start our own brands. (And by the way, Scotch & Soda is based in Amsterdam, not the UK…)


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10 Things You Need to Start a Fashion Brand

I frequently get letters from people asking for advice on how to start their own fashion brand, and I’m often surprised at how few skills or experience they have going into it. Starting a fashion business is not just a fun project to do on the side, it requires commitment and these ten very important things.

1. Industry experience. Whether you’ve worked in design, manufacturing, PR, modelling, pattern making, or sales – you really need some basic fashion industry experience to start a brand. Would I decide to open a car repair if I knew nothing about how cars are repaired? No. So don’t do the same with fashion.

alexis barrell, new fashion brand

All images from very cool and new (ish) designer Alexis Barrell (

2. A good idea. The hallmark of all great fashion brands. And remember, just because your friends think it is a good idea, doesn’t mean it is.


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Loathe: American Fashion Cookbook

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If you judge a book by its cover, then this one screams “tacky.”

Here’s a little gem I found online that was published in 2009: American Fashion Cookbook, a book of recipes and illustrations from American fashion designers. It’s ironic that I’m always complaining about how annoying it is that everyone “says” they are a fashion designer, because now the fashion designers are saying they are cooks. Ok, not quite, but really, is this book necessary? When I need a recipe, I go to a website or a book that is written by expert cooks, the same way I want to buy my clothes designed by expert designers. Why would I want Isaac Mizrahi’s Mushroom Truffle Spaghetti or Carolina Herrera’s Pommes Toupinel? I’d rather get the recipe from a chef whose profession is making these things.

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Richard Lambertson’s crab cakes. Somehow I doubt the final result will look anything like the illustration…

And this comment (which was part of a 5 star review?!?!) sums it up: “My only two gripes are that the recipes are a bit unexact and hard to follow, and there aren’t any pictures.” Um, isn’t the WHOLE POINT of a recipe book to have instructions that are exact and easy to follow? And how often have you made a recipe without a photo? Me? Never. This book sounds like an absolute waste of $35. Designers, your profession is making dresses and not chowder, leave the cooking to the pros.

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6 of the Worst Slogan Tees on Sale Now

Summer and working from home all the time has made me appreciate the benefits of a good t-shirt. While I was snooping around some of the online stores for some new tops, I kept coming across these incredibly tacky slogan t-shirts. I can understand if these were being worn by twelve years olds, but something (the prices, for example) tells me that these are being marketed for adults. Can someone help me out here? I cannot understand why anyone would want to wear one of these, unless they were at the gym (and even then, I would not wear one of these to the gym because I’d look like a twat.)

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Left: “Tout va bien” t-shirt by J Crew. Since when did they become a French brand? And according to reports, things are not going “bien” over there right now and sales are dipping. Right: “Let it be!” t-shirt by Happiness. Beatles lyrics are annoying no end – but made even worse when you add an exclamation point at the end.


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Loathe: Adidas’ Muddy Shoes

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I hoped that this was a joke when I saw it on my Facebook feed, but alas, no, this is really an item for sale: running shoes with fake mud splatter on the bottom. Here is the description from the website:

“These sneakers re-imagine the iconic ZX 750 running shoe in a snow-white leather upper with a clever mud-splatter effect.”

I can think of a few words I’d use in lieu of “clever.” Perhaps idiotic? Ridiculous? Stupid? Laughable? Farcical? Imbecilic? Pointless? You get my point…

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