A Conversation with Alex Valdman
For Alex Valdman, founder of clothing label HomeRoom and current design director at Easton Bell Sports/Giro, the path to becoming a designer developed rather organically through less of a drive to become a “designer” for the sake of the title, but rather out of an early experimentation with a handmade personal hoodie in college. With a resume that includes the likes of consulting work for Kanye West, Supreme, GAP and MTV, the San Francisco native has since developed a body of work that is nothing short of impressive and, for lack of a deservingly stronger term, well-rounded. For some who might remember, Valdman made his first waves with the introduction of his cut & sew label HomeRoom. A good example of the change and progression that is often required of long-term success, Valdman has since gone on to work alongside storied denim and apparel brand Levi’s as its Global Menswear Designer – a position that allowed the him to explore an already sharpened design vision and aesthetic that initially developed during his time with HomeRoom.
The experience derived from HomeRoom… I learned naivety will give you drive, but experience will give you fuel – finding balance between those 2 and most importantly the right people to work with are crucial. However, the best memories aren’t business learnings – it was amazing to travel, design and meet such great people at a young age.
What I learned making the move to a corporate company… I’ve always been in favor of the underdog, so going corporate was like Frodo going to the Dark Tower. I had to see what it was about. Levi’s reached out to me and I accepted. It became one of the most enlightening experiences. The amount of talent and experience in that building is unreal. One of the best things that I learned is how to make great denim, from the fiber/dye level all the way to fit/construction/finishing.
The ability to fuse design and performance… is the marriage of subjective and objective.
1.Design being subjective to taste levels – are you designing for yourself or for a customer that is either a like-minded, an early adopter, or a late adopter?
2.Performance being objective – does it perform to the expectations, is there innovation in key areas?
But, its not that simple. Its quite challenging.
Cycling… I think Elizabeth Howard West said it best: “When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.”
Denim… Before Kiya had Selfedge, he would tell me about denim from Japan. He really got me interested in it. I started learning everything I could about it from that moment.
Really, really good denim is extremely rare; the mills and dyers that use the slow processes are slowly becoming extinct. Because of my interest to find more of these traditionalists, it will always be a passion of mine.
San Francisco to you is… where hippie ethics, street cultures, and entrepreneurship clashes to create innovation and ideas that change the world.