Makers Mondays: Studio Visit with Alexandra Grecco
We speak with the NYC-based designer about her delicate, classically-inspired collection and her expanding presence
Brooklynite Alexandra Grecco released her first ready-to-wear collection in 2010—a series of ultra-feminine pieces in ladylike colors, fabrics and often pinup-inspired silhouettes that are at once nostalgic (calling to mind fashion icons like Catherine Deneueve, Jean Shrimpton and Grace Kelley) and incredibly contemporary. This year Grecco expanded her focus, applying that same soft, timeless aesthetic to her very first bridal collection. Inspired by her own recent hunt for a wedding dress, the collection—which recently debuted at NY International Bridal Week—comprises dresses and mix-and-match pieces that feature intricate beadwork, luxe fabrics and designs inspired by everything from roaring '20s fashion to contemporary photography and botanicals.
The bridal line isn't the only new element in Grecco’s life—she also recently moved to a new studio-meets-showroom in Manhattan’s Garment District. The new workspace is conveniently located just a few floors down from her workshop, where a team of highly skilled seamstresses produce her designs. We stopped by Grecco’s studio to learn more about her creative process and her new work.
You moved from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to the Garment District about a month ago. How would you describe the experience so far?
It’s great to be in the Garment District, a real working industrial neighborhood in the heart of New York. I have loved it—the energy of it, the convenience. Sometimes Midtown isn’t the most tranquil place to wade into, but even on days when 8th Avenue seems a bit overwhelming, I’m amazed and very happy that here I am, in the middle of New York, doing something that I feel like I am meant to be doing.
What were the inspirations behind your first Alexandra Grecco Bridal collection?
I was really inspired by 1920s silhouettes, and some of the embroidery motifs were inspired by trips to botanical gardens like Longwood Gardens and Wave Hill. I was also [inspired] by Wendy Bevan's photography. I love the colors and overall mood of her photographs. A lot of modern beadwork is so shiny and flashy; I like something a little more subtle—which I've found that a lot of brides do too. I looked for vintage pieces that had beadwork that had lost a little shine, and then we used that as reference when selecting the beads to use. The colors I used in the bridal collection are just some of my favorite colors—dove grey, blush, ivory (not bright white)—also perhaps inspired by old photographs.
Tell us about your creative process—the path from inspiration to final product.
I spend time gathering photos and fabrics and pulling swatches to create a color story. I also spend some time looking at vintage pieces to get inspired by the unexpected detail. Then I start sketching and draping.
What prompted your expansion into bridal design?
When I was looking for my own gown for my wedding last year, I found some pieces I loved, but it really seemed like some of the styles I thought I would find just weren’t there. It seemed like there was a real opportunity to make something that women like me would connect with. And the colors (muted colors, pastels), fabrics (lace, embroidery) and the overall mood that you get to work with as a bridal designer really resonate with my aesthetic.
A wedding is such a happy event, and if I can be part of making a bride feel even more special, well, that’s amazing.
What feeling do you hope people take away from the collection?
A gown is such a personal thing. Everyone is looking for the one that they feel suits them, and I know my aesthetic isn’t going to be for every woman. But I had the opportunity to work with some brides during two recent trunk shows, and the way they lit up when they decided that they had found the gown for them—it was really great. Just lots of smiles. So, I hope the feeling that someone who finds the right gown in my collection takes away is a bit of joy. A wedding is such a happy event, and if I can be part of making a bride feel even more special, well, that’s amazing.
When did you first know that you wanted to be a designer?
As a child, I spent a lot of time thinking about different ensembles and would sketch them up. My mom kept them all—I think there might be thousands of them. I kept drawing and later learned to drape and sew. Eventually, I went on to study fashion at FIT. By the time I finished school, I wanted nothing to do with the fashion industry. In school, it felt a little bit like we were just being prepared to work for large companies, helping to feed a fashion machine and that's not what I wanted.
So how did you get here?
At some point I just started making pieces and posting them on my blog. People starting asking if they could buy them, and it grew from there. Early on I knew that I loved what I was doing, but I didn't originally set out to be a designer and certainly did not imagine that it could be my full-time job one day.
You launched your ready-to-wear line four years ago. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in that time, creatively and as a businessperson?
As a creative person, sometimes it’s tough to be patient with yourself. I have worked on that and tried to hew out enough time for things to develop. Designs, ideas—sometimes they jump into existence fully grown, but often you need to make some time for them to get where they need to be. As a business person? Well, I’ve found a bookkeeper is a good person to know.
Shop the Alexandra Grecco collections online or at her NYC showroom by appointment.
Images by Jay Wen