A lunch in Alfaro’s honor, hosted by creative ambassador to Barneys Simon Doonan, is well underway. Impeccably dressed men and women roam around the sun-drenched restaurant sipping champagne and eating tuna crudo as Alfaro chats about his new fall 2015 ready-to-wear line.
A native of Chihuahua, Mexico, Alfaro is lately best known for luxurious knit pieces and a disastrous partnership in 1998 with Italian manufacturer Gilmar that forced him off of the market for nearly a decade. After buying back his own name and spending several years designing a contemporary line for Bon-Ton, Alfaro is firmly re-ensconced in Barneys. His fall line is full of luscious sweaters and richly hued pieces that can easily transition from Indian summer to crisp fall weather.
Surrounded by plush cream banquettes, Alfaro is warm, engaging and obviously passionate about his latest designs, a very clear departure from his previous lines.
“I think in the past I was known for super dressy, occasional clothes,” Alfaro says. “And I think that had a great place back then … but the world has changed.”
Alfaro says this season he challenged himself to address the consumer and their needs, “as opposed to thinking they all need an evening gown.”
Starting with plush, handmade knits, the collection has a very “hands-on, artsy kind of feel,” according to Alfaro.
In sharp contrast to the highly structured styles on the runway, Alfaro’s fall line is a truly tactile experience.
“Everything is super soft,” Alfaro says. “There’s nothing super structured. I think we’ve achieved the goal of how do these ladies go out and dress up in the middle of winter without having to be so uptight and fussy.
“Fussy is a word to describe what I’m not,” Alfaro adds, laughing.
Far from blending in with the widespread trends of chunky knits and wide-leg pants, Alfaro’s designs are uniquely his own.
“I like beautiful yarns, I like hand knits, I like neutral colors,” Alfaro says. “When I put it together, it’s very me, it’s very polished and it’s my responsibility … to be leading trends.”
As pleased as he is with the current line, Alfaro is already looking ahead to next fall’s line. Though his creative process is largely led by the fabrics he finds on frequent trips to Italy, Alfaro recognizes that the basis of a fashion line needs to start with structure: a certain number of pants, a certain number of sweaters, what shape the clothes will take.
“Is it a wide-leg pant? Is it a knit wide-leg pant? Is it a knit wide-leg pant that’s cropped?” Alfaro asks. “There are a lot of conversations about what looks new and wearable and the silhouette we start early on. We determine that and then we start making clothes, but not before we decide what the shapes are.”
Although work is already beginning on next season’s fashions, Alfaro says he won’t have any real designs until after he finishes his trips to Italy where he will inspect handmade yarns and other fabrics.
“I’m very instinctual so when I see it I know,” he says. “That feels right, that yarn count looks right. It’s like going to the market and finding the right ingredients and then you just work around there.”
As Alfaro moves around the restaurant thanking the guests, it is clear that his self-described mercurial intensity translates to all areas of his life. He snaps pictures with his devotees, but he shifts restlessly from foot to foot as he chats.
“I’m always on the go. I need to be,” Alfaro says. “It’s hard to find people to keep up with me because they’re like, ‘relax!’ but mediocrity is for somebody else, not for me.”
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