Alvin Valley was crowned “The King of Pants” by Women’s Wear Daily in the mid-nineties thanks to his amazing trousers – beloved by women of all ages and sizes. The designer lost his business a decade later and took a hiatus, returning to the fashion fold earlier this year after buying back the rights to his name and relaunching his newly reconfigured line of pants for Fall 2012 as an online-only venture. I recently stopped by Alvin’s Garment District headquarters to get the lowdown on his typical day at work and the secret to his beautifully cut trousers.
“When I launched in August there was this overwhelming reaction, like, ‘Oh my god, the King of Pants is back,’ ” says the designer, who’s seated in a low-slung white leather chair in his glossy white showroom, dressed casually in jeans, moccasins, a Ralph Lauren sweater, and blue-tinted glasses. “Now I wonder, why didn’t anyone come after that market while I was gone, ’cause it was sitting there ready to be scooped up. It’s just a testament to how hard and intimidating it is to do pants and to really own it.”
Along with reintroducing classic styles from his original collection, the designer added several new styles, all of which feature a patented built-in panel that hugs you in all the right places, making for a long, lean silhouette. “I hate the term ‘shapewear,’ ” confides the “pro-feminist” Alvin. “Because it makes it sound like women are out of shape. But it has an element of sculpting that makes you stand differently, in a strong and forceful stance.”
As for his typical day, the designer gets up early and works out every morning for at least an hour, arriving at the office around 9AM to attend a series of “long-ass meetings” with his five-person team that cover everything from design and merchandising to social media, branding, and PR.
Most days he has lunch with a client, friend, or stylist at the Japanese restaurant Koi, then heads back to the office for more meetings and private client fittings. Quitting time is around 7PM, at which point he either heads home to his Upper East Side apartment or out to dinner with friends. On Wednesday nights, he takes an in-depth photography class at the International Center of Photography, which allows him to be fluent in the language of the lens when discussing images with photographers he’s hired to shoot the collection.
Alvin’s social life is “a mix of everything” and finds him at a gritty venue on the Lower East Side as often as it does a black-tie charity gala uptown. “I’m not just in one corner of the world,” he says with a smile. “I really try to take in as much as I can from everyone. Because that’s really what I bring to the table when I come here – what I learned from someone the night before. So it’s sort of a good mix.”
Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.