Founder, Fashion Indie
New York City
“As a first-generation immigrant…the Brooks Brothers stores themselves, with their beautiful wood paneling and scripted logo, seemed a bastion of old-guard American elegance.”
The founder and editor in chief of the fashion site Fashion Indie and a new, eponymous blog, Beca Alexander also is a bit of a guru to bloggers the world over via her talent and creative agency, Socialyte. Here, she waxes sartorial on the unbridled aspiration that took her from her childhood in Soviet Russia, to her time toiling in the early days of the blogosphere, to the sequin-studded top of the fashion-media heap.
“There is an old Russian saying that I love: ‘Live for a century, learn for a century.’ I do believe that we never cease to learn and that all of life’s challenges provide opportunities for growth and development. I grew up in Ukraine, so this maxim was drilled into me at a very young age. In those days, Russia was still the U.S.S.R. and everything was scarce: food, clothing, basic supplies like toothpaste and shampoo. Even still, Ukrainians are proud people—it was always important that I had a nice dress for special occasions and a fur coat, which every child, regardless of financial status, owned. I wore mine everywhere; I even named it; it was called lapochka, which roughly translates to “sweetie pie.” We left it behind when we immigrated to the U.S. and I still miss it.
It was pretty clear right from those early days of my dear lapochka, that I simply loved fashion. When I moved to New York to study at Parsons, I was unsure of what I was going to do when I graduated, but I knew it would have to do be in the high-fashion business. I met my business partner (and future ex-husband) during one of my first jobs and, together, we became Fashion Indie. We started from and with nothing—we were originally blogging from our apartments—and these were the early days when bloggers weren’t taken seriously.
At that time, there were certain things that represented aspiration to me, and the white Brooks Brothers oxford shirt was one of them. The Brooks Brothers stores themselves, with their beautiful wood paneling and scripted logo, seemed to my young self a bastion of old-guard American elegance, and as a first-generation immigrant, to appropriate that seemed to confer a tangible piece of the American dream on me. I still consider that white oxford one of the most iconic staples of American fashion, and Brooks Brothers a hallmark brand of American style.
Naturally, as my business evolved, so did my fashion. My shopping outlook changed when Fashion Indie became a more professional operation; I began investing in designer pieces with closet staying power. Now about half of my wardrobe contains things I can wear to a client meeting and the other half remains fun evening wear for parties and events. I seek out eclectic and unexpected pairings, and creating a unique harmony between two ostensibly discordant pieces has become my signature style. I have a great appreciation for the quirky—pom-pom earrings, pilgrim heels, sequined jumpsuits—and the classic, like Brooks Brothers cashmere sweaters. They have a perfectly contoured cut that can be worn casually with jeans or as part of a dressier outfit, and I consider them to be an absolute necessity when living in Manhattan. The city itself can be so difficult and abrasive that it’s glorious to have something so soft against your skin to help ease through all that hardness.
And just as buying that very first oxford shirt gave me a sense of belonging to a greater American dream, the night that solidified my feeling of success was a Broadway premiere I attended last year. It felt like an arrival of sorts, like I was truly a part of all of this, no longer an outsider at the gates. I was there as part of the establishment—the media elite, Hollywood stars, assorted glitterati. And of course I was wearing Brooks Brothers, as it seemed only appropriate to be wearing a brand that had always represented, to me, a very visceral sense of accomplishment and achievement
I’ve come to realize that the best style is an outward manifestation of inward realization. Someone who really knows herself, who is completely comfortable in her own skin, will have a completely different way of being and wearing clothes than someone who is just following along with the trends. Confidence comes from within, so you can wear a burlap sack with confidence if you have enough sprezzatura. And I’d like to think I have some to spare.“
Clothing With Character: Brooks in Books
Brooks Brothers clothing is woven throughout the American literary landscape. The company’s clothes were featured in novels such as F. Scott FitzGerald’s debut, This Side of Paradise; Joseph Heller’s Catch-22; and, surprisingly, William Burroughs’ Junkie. Mary McCarthy’s popular story title said it all: “The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt.”