You can find buzz brand labels like Shades of Grey and Generic Surplus at all three locations of the North Brooklyn boutique Alter, but ask the duo who opened the store in 2007 and they’ll tell you that they always envisioned stocking their designs. “Starting our own line was definitely in the plans from the very beginning, but it took a lot of time, research, and learning to really get it off the ground,” explains Tommy Cole, who founded Alter with Roy Caires. He adds, “It wasn’t really a decision, but more a natural progression for the Alter brand.”
Whatever led to this point—that is, Alter finally launching a line of tailored button-downs, printed sheaths, skinny jeans, and more—we’re glad it happened. The in-house line includes both men’s and women’s pieces that take inspiration not just from work wear and military garb, but from the store name as well. “The definition of alter is ‘to change or make different, cause a transformation.’ So with the clothing we are taking classic shapes that we know our customers are looking for and giving them an Alter twist,” Cole says. “You’ll see shirts and dresses with mixed prints and patterns, subtle but clever details in the tailoring and skewed pattern shapes like on our asymmetrical vest.”
The line is entirely made in Brooklyn, traveling not much more than a couple minutes across the borough. Having spent the past five years ripping open cardboard boxes, it’s an admitted perk to keeping things homegrown; as Cole points out, “It’s very exciting to make and sell product that was made a few miles away, as opposed to getting a box of goods that just traveled 8,000 miles across the globe.” It’s also inspired a new direction for the boutique, with the goal of stocking more locally based, locally produced brands. “We feel like it’s our obligation to support the fashion community we have right here in our own city,” says Cole. With their own line in the beginning stages—and big plans to keep rolling out pieces as needed throughout the year—there’s little doubt that Alter will be playing an important part in it.