Steven Alan Reflects on 20 Years and 3 Businesses

Could Steven Alan footwear be next?
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Dhani Mau
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Could Steven Alan footwear be next?
Steven Alan in front of his Chelsea store. Photo: Courtesy

Steven Alan in front of his Chelsea store. Photo: Courtesy

Steven Alan's Chelsea location in New York City was filled to the brim on Thursday night with colleagues, friends, hot male Steven Alan employees (FYI ladies: All male Steven Alan employees are hot) and editor-fan girls like myself to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the store that spawned a hip mini-empire.

There were designers he's worked with from his early '90s beginning, like Daryl K's Daryl Kerrigan, to newer success stories like Mansur Gavriel's Rachel Mansur and Floriana Gavriel, who count Alan as one of their earliest supporters.

Today, Steven Alan is not just a store, but it's also a multi-line sales showroom for small designers and an in house-line that includes clothes, handbags, jewelry, eyewear and home goods. We've interviewed Alan plenty of times over the years but it wasn't hard to think of more questions for the Jack of all fashion trades. 

Read on to find out how he approaches his eponymous line, what product category he'll launch next and the new store coming to Brooklyn.

Does it feel like it's been 20 years?

I can't believe it's been 20 years. It's been challenging because we're doing three different businesses and trying to run them all responsibly and as best we can, and I always felt that they would be complimentary to one another — we're definitely seeing that.

How involved are you with the in-house line? Do you sketch, etc.?

I don't know how to sketch and I don't know how to drape, but I'm very involved. I like to see everything and we'll talk about it before it's ever even — when it's sketched we'll go over the sketches, I'll sit in on the fittings and make changes.

After bags, jewelry, eyewear and home, what's next?

Each category that we've gone into, it hasn't been thought out like, "Next we're gonna do eyewear." It's just like, now it feels right or we have a great brand partner. Right now we're thinking about shoes — that's been a big focus for us this past year, in terms of how to approach it best and thinking about how we're going to do that.

How has your day-to-day role changed and evolved since you started?

When I first started, I was working in the store, behind the counter, managing the store and I had a couple of employees. Then when I started the showroom, I was showing the lines and working in the store and trying to do everything. Now I find that I have great people and there's no way I could run everything myself.

What do you look for in an employee?

I think every company's a little bit different. I think for us the people that tend to do the best are the people that whatever they're doing, they run it like it's their own business and they don't need to be handheld as much. People that need you to say, now do this now do that, those people don't function as well as people that are leaders.

You're known for supporting emerging designers. Who should we be paying attention to now?

No.6, Clare Vivier, Alasdair, Horses Atelier.

What's the biggest lesson you've learned about running a business?

To always be looking forward, to see what are you going to do next. I think it's a very fast-changing type of industry, fashion, and I feel like you can never just rest on what you did — you always have to be challenging yourself and thinking, how can I do that better, what else can I do, and staying focused. It's easy to look around and think, that's popular, that's popular, maybe I should go do that or that, but for me that just would be a disaster.

Where's your next store location planned for?

It will be our home store because we're moving our home store and it will be in Brooklyn. We're finalizing the exact location.