New York-based Alessandra Baker is the designer behind luxury sleepwear line Alessandra Mackenzie. Baker grew to appreciate the streamlined simplicity of a man’s wardrobe having spent her childhood visiting her grandfather’s atelier and then later at Ralph Lauren where she designed mens neckwear for three years . Inspired to reimagine this aesthetic for women, the Parsons alum launched her own line of luxe women’s loungewear with all the ease of menswear. From slinky slips to sumptuous pajama sets and separates, Baker creates pieces comfortable enough for the bedroom and sophisticated enough to be worn outside of it.
Before attending Parsons and earning your womenswear fashion design degree, what were you doing?
I actually started working in the art world after college, but decided it wasn’t for me. Somewhat serendipitously, I found myself at Ralph Lauren in the Men’s Neckwear Department. I spent three years there, and could not have wished for a better introduction to the fashion industry. Ralph Lauren has created such a strong and consistent brand, and I learned so much in my time there.
What motivated you to start your own line?
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, it was almost impossible to escape it. As my grandmother always says, “It’s better to sweep your own floor.” At times, starting Alessandra Mackenzie has been challenging, but every day I’m grateful to be doing what I do, and hopefully, creating a product that women will love and feel special in.
How has your grandfather influenced the collection?
Growing up visiting my grandfather’s atelier had quite an impact on me. As he designs exclusively for men, classic menswear traditions were ingrained in me early on. My time at Ralph Lauren only further amplified this, and now menswear informs my design process. I tend to start off thinking how I can appropriate something for men into something for women, but still retain the details that make it timeless.
You held your Spring ’14 presentation in a hotel suite, which I thought was quite appropriate. However, do you think this venue limits your brand at all?
The suite was lovely, and I thought showcased a very prevalent aspect of the brand, as the collection is primarily designed for making the time spent as home a little more luxurious. That said, there are pieces that can easily be worn out of the house, and I think it’s nice that they have that flexibility. I’ve been known to wear the Blair PJ Top and Allison Side-Stripe Pant out to dinner, and in addition to the chic factor that a silk outfit provides, I am always the most comfortable person at the table!
What made you notice luxury loungewear was missing from the market?
I noticed something was missing when I couldn’t find what I was looking for. I have always loved loungewear – something to do with the nostalgia of it, and the feel of the fabrics – and I found that there wasn’t much in that price point that was interesting to me. I also found that most of the loungewear is now made overseas, and I thought it was time to produce a collection in the US.
How does your collection compare to the line Piamita?
My line was designed to be modern, clean and fresh. It was also designed keeping in wide range in mind. I consider it an accomplishment that each female member of my family can find something at Alessandra Mackenzie that makes her feel special and elegant.
Do your customers wear your pieces as ready-to-wear also?
Absolutely! That’s one of the most attractive aspects of the line, the versatility.
How do you see the line evolving?
Right now, we offer silk charmeuse loungewear and silk and cashmere knits. We’re also debuting a bridal trousseau collection, which uses the most beautiful French lace – I can’t wait to show it! In addition to extending the loungewear for women, I also see an extension into product categories that focus on the home and travel, creating comfort and luxury whenever and wherever possible. There might also be some men’s pajamas on the horizon…
Can you tell us anything about Fall ’14?
Fall ’14 will see the addition of a few loungewear styles, and the evolution of the knits. I am also envisioning richer color combinations, creating something that feels very special and jewel-like.