We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."
Madrid-born, New York City-based designer Alejandra Alonso Rojas first launched her line in 2014 under the name À Moi, but it wasn't until she hit the refresh button in 2016 — changing the label to her own name and refocusing the aesthetic to reflect a more mature, globe-trotting woman like herself — that she also began to hit her stride. Rojas is now producing chic, deceptively simple pieces in luxe fabrics like leather or handwoven knits that practically define "investment purchase."
"I really want to offer people clothes where they can actually build; when you buy this piece that you are in love with, it's a piece that you can keep forever in a way that you can style in many different ways, so it's not a piece that you get bored of, or this season goes and it has to disappear from your closet," she explains. "It allows many, many, many different styles; different people have different ways of wearing them. I love seeing clients, how they style a jacket differently or a sweater, or a dress."
And it's a good thing she settled into her design direction, because 2019 brought a brand-new challenge to Rojas's plate: A baby boy, Alonso, born in early February. Thankfully, Rojas worked right up to the proverbial finish line and met with me mere days before giving birth to chat about her own personal style, her methodology for shopping and what she's most excited to wear again post-pregnancy. ("I'm missing pants so much," she cries.) Read on for excerpts from our conversation.
I define my personal style as very peaceful — feminine and chic, in a way, but with styling that goes through the entire day. I really enjoy getting dressed in the morning. If I don't on one day, it's because I'm sick or something like that, but it's therapeutic. I love doing my makeup in the morning, or my hair; I like to wear things that are very comfortable. I love good quality, and I just like to be cozy and sophisticated at the same time. That's how I would describe it.
[I found my style by] trying different things; since I was three, I was choosing my outfits to go to school. Sometimes it's just fun to try new things. I feel like the best skill you can develop is when you don't even think about it and you know already — that color works, this dress with this sweater or jeans with this kind of shape works — and you don't even have to be doing outfits in the morning. You just grab stuff, because you already know that those things are going to work together. It's taken me years to figure that out.
Online shopping works really, really well when I already know a brand very well — I know my size, or I know the cream that I'm buying, or my lipstick color. To me, that's just almost like ordering groceries on the phone; I love the brand and I have this pair of pants or this sweater, whatever, and I want it in another color. If it's basic — buying thermal stuff from Uniqlo for the winter, or a cashmere turtleneck from them, tights, socks, stuff like that — all of those basic things, I do buy online. If I'm doing research for furniture or gifting, I love to do that research [online].
For brick and mortar stores, I love more specialty stores; when I go to the ones that sell our clothes, I just love spending time there. I never buy shoes online. I need to try them on, walk on them. For special pieces, I like to go to the brick-and-mortar stores and spend some time there. Maybe they need to be re-tailored; I like that. It calls to me in an easy way once again.
I do have some favorite stores in different places where I go. I love to actually do shopping when I'm there, because I think when I'm in New York, everything is a little hectic and I'm working a lot with clothes every single day. Sometimes I'm like, "I can't see more clothes over the weekend!" But when I travel, I love to go to these boutiques. I end up shopping and just looking around, but I would say the thing that I love the most is shopping for gifts. More than shopping for myself, I love shopping for other people.
My closet is full of my clothes. I feel like since the line is getting more developed, I've been buying less and less ready to wear, or get really picky with things that I buy, because I don't have much. [I buy] from friend designers — like Chloe Gosselin for instance, I love buying her shoes —or jewelry from other designers, things that I do not carry. Quality wise, if I go shopping now, I'm going to look inside the pieces and make sure if I'm buying an investment piece, it's properly done. I'm getting way more picky.
Social media, I think that's one of the best channels to discover [new brands], or online publications, magazines, even people in the streets. Sometimes, if I love what someone is wearing, I'm like, "Oh, where did you get that from?" Going to these boutiques as well, I go through the racks and see, maybe there's this amazing designer from another country that we're not used to here. I write down the names and then, I do a little bit of research and if I'm in love with it, I always end up getting a piece or something.
I'm a very [particular] packing person, because I hate a carrying a lot of luggage. I don't like to make looks, because I find myself almost in a uniform. Lately, I've been managing to travel without checking in the suitcases. This summer, [my husband and I] took off two entire weeks and we went with two carry-on suitcases. My trick lately is a garment bag, where I fake there's one hanger coming out but there's eight inside. I just wear eight dresses or whatever.
It's a mayhem that turns into pieces of perfectly folded clothing with tissue paper. I pack everything with tissue paper so then when I get to wherever I am, nothing is wrinkled, so I don't have to press anything because I hate pressing. Worst thing! I love traveling with dresses or even silky stuff, because then I can go evening or night just styling them differently; usually five to six pairs of shoes or sandals layered in. That's my strategy.
Two or three years ago, I decided to buy less, but buy more quality stuff. Unless I'm buying turtlenecks for winter from Uniqlo or Zara or some place like that, I prefer to spend money on that piece that I love and have a smaller closet with pieces that I really, really love rather than just compulsively buying more mass fashion. I've been buying slow fashion and investing in pieces that I really believe in.
The last Celine bag that I bought [was my best purchase] since it's never going to be around. It took me three years to buy it, because I was waiting for a really special color. Then I found it in a very pale blush pink that probably no one bought because it would get dirty. I just thought it was so beautiful, so that was one of my favorite pieces that I think I'm going to wear forever.
The worst thing I ever bought was a pair of boots — and I'm not going to say the brand — I thought that they were really beautiful, I bought them online. When they came, the leg of the boot was made so wrong that still, up to today, I cannot even close the zipper. Then, they didn't accept the return because it was an international buy. They need someone that probably doesn't even have an ankle. [laughs] I tried to wear them and every time I put them on, it hurt so much. They're in a box and I'm like, "What do I do with them?" That was definitely the worst, and they were not cheap.
[Pregnancy] was hard. I discovered that I do not believe at all in any pregnancy brand that does clothing. Pregnant pants for women — you can't wear pants! I discovered that. I'm dying to wear my high-waist pants. I'm missing pants so much. Tights are impossible. I just throw them away, the ones I bought. Then, I discovered that you can actually wear your previous tights, just lower. A friend was asking me yesterday, "Oh, are you going to design some pregnancy clothes?" I was like, "You don't need pregnancy clothes. You just buy things that are a little bigger or you just wear neat dresses half down for the entire pregnancy."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.