I’m so, so, so excited about this career feature for several reasons. Persifor is one of those brands that’s just a perfect fit for Design Darling. The colors, the patterns, the silhouettes… Everything is beachy and happy and has my name written all over it. The founder, Alex, worked for the likes of J.Crew and Lilly Pulitzer before venturing out on her own. She’s one of the hardest working women I know and yet she’s also the most down-to-earth, making her a total breath of fresh air. We sat down in her Upper East Side apartment to talk all things business and baby (she’s seven months pregnant and cute as can be!). Without further ado, meet Alex!
Name: Alex Thompson
Title: Founder, Persifor
Location: Upper East Side, New York
What was your first job ever? Have you always wanted to design clothing?
I worked on the sales floor of J.Crew in Greenwich in high school. My mom is an interior designer and I’ve always had an interest in fabrics and prints. She would go to pick out fabrics and I would always envision them on clothing. It was something inherent in my DNA but I wasn’t sure in high school or college how that would translate.
Where did you work before launching your own line?
My first job out of college was with a small preppy dress designer named Vanessa Fox. It was a small company so I did everything from design to sales. Then I became a merchandiser of accessories at J.Crew and then an accessories designer at Lilly Pulitzer. I got a real sense of the business, how to build a line, the importance of branding, margins, pricing, and creating a lifestyle around the brand.
Now that you’ve launched Persifor, tell me about the design process for a given collection.
I work a full year and a half in advance. The process usually starts with print development and color selection as well as choosing silhouettes for garments and accessories. I submit the artwork and design and get a first sample back. I send back my comments and wait for a second sample, which is usually close to how the finished product will look. Then there’s a photo shoot for the lookbook and line sheets and it’s time for trade shows.
And it’s a one-woman show?
It’s a one-woman show! Hopefully two by the beginning of summer.
(Editor’s note: apply here!)
That’s so impressive. How do you stay organized?
iCal, handwritten to do lists, and a leatherbound notebook that I bring with me everywhere.
Inspiration can strike at any time! What’s inspiring you right now?
Travel is my number one and it’s also the basis of the brand. All the dresses and tops are designed to be packed up and worn anywhere. I just got back from Harbor Island, which was a source of inspiration for Resort 2015.
How would you describe the woman who’s wearing Persifor?
Classic, clean, vibrant, elevated.
Vibrant is a good choice. So much color! What does a typical day look like for you?
I get up, walk the dog, come back with coffee, and answer emails from China early in the morning. Then I start working with customers and stores or source in the garment district. Every day is different! Right now I’m trying to get everything done before the baby arrives.
You are going to be the cutest mom of all time. What’s the most fun part of your job?
The most fun part is being able to travel, meet customers, and see an item through from start to finish. It’s cool when one of my designs becomes an everyday part of someone’s life.
And the least fun?
The day-to-day minutia: accounting, data entry, paperwork…
I hear you! What’s one “pinch me” moment you’ve had so far?
When Anthropologie placed an order for our product!
That must have been surreal. When will you know you’ve made it?
I don’t think you ever know! There’s always so much room for growth — change is a constant. But I’m a big believer in celebrating the little wins along the way. It helps you move past the not-so-great days!
That’s great advice. Any other wisdom you’ve picked up along the way?
Treat people as you would like to be treated. Stay focused on your vision. It’s so easy to get distracted at trade shows and think, “Do I need to be doing pink and green hippo prints?” or whatever other people are doing. But you have to be true to your aesthetic — that’s why I got into this to begin with!
*All photos by Rebecca Dale
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