Sundays in Fort Greene with Alex Crane
The linen-loving designer on why you should never compromise on clothing, the power of conviction, and his favorite neighborhood spots.
There’s nothing like summertime in New York City. As things heat up in the city, suddenly there’s so much to must-do. Most of the fun takes place outdoors: music festivals, food festivals, rooftop bar-hopping, countless parades, and more. You’ll never be bored, that’s for sure, but at some point, you’ll probably get really sweaty. Example: On an especially humid day, waiting underground (for even just, like, thirty seconds) for the subway train won’t be such a fun ride, particularly for the buttoned-up guys—unless, that is, they’re wearing Alex Crane’s head-turning, head-to-toe linen designs from his eponymous label. Growing up in California has a lot to do with Crane’s linen lovin’—the fabric reminds him of the ocean. Don’t worry, these aren’t surfer bro-y or stuffy Montauk-dinner-party-vibe clothes, at all. They’re easy, effortless beauties. The duds are sophisticated, casual and cool at the same time—and, oh yeah, they will keep you cool. These days, the Californian is based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Here, he tells us why he loves Fort Greene (and linen), and shares his favorite neighborhood spots. Spoiler alert: this aptly includes a bar named after his favorite easy, breezy, beautiful beachy place in the world: Bolinas, California.
What’s your earliest memory of being interested in fashion?
Alex Crane: I wore a black leather biker jacket in my kindergarten class photo—it was the same kind The Ramones wore with all the snaps and zippers. I’m not particularly rebellious, but I’ve never compromised on clothes. I just know how l want to feel and the clothes bring out the feeling.
You’re from California. Does the California weather have anything to do with your love of linen?
AC: I’m a Californian through and through. I grew up in the golden light, and the Pacific and the eucalyptus trees and it all seeped into my bones. I love linen because it holds that spirit in its fibers. It’s breezy and timeless. It reminds you of the ocean—it feels like a warm ocean breeze and it just gets better with time.
What brought you to New York?
AC: I came to New York because it’s a mirror. It shows you who you are, unfiltered and in bright daylight. It’s beautiful and inspiring, and not an easy place to feel calm and casual. And I like the challenge. I want to look sharp and feel breezy no matter what’s going on around me.
Before you started your label, what did you think it would be like to run your own clothing brand? What’s been the actual reality of it?
AC: I learned how to be an entrepreneur by hanging around other entrepreneurs. They showed me that starting a business is mostly about conviction—you have to believe in your product and you have to believe in yourself. If you have those convictions, you can keep trucking when things go wrong. All that said, running a clothing business requires a lot more Excel spreadsheets and a lot less drawing than I thought it would…
In terms of your creative process, how long does it take start-to-finish? Are there multiple revisions to a look?
AC: Developing a new product is a serious job and I’m never quite finished—even the Playa Shirt and Bo Shorts are still evolving. We keep the assortment tight so we can stand behind every product. When we add a new product, it’s like adding a new family member. In that way, we’re very different than most fashion companies: We only want to develop new products that can stay with us for a long time.
When did you move to Fort Greene? What do you love about your neighborhood?
AC: I moved to Fort Greene in 2017 after living in New York for five years. It’s like a little village, which is a real relief from the anonymity of the city. We have everything we need in a four-block radius. We constantly run into our neighbors at local watering holes. You really can’t beat it.
What’s your go-to restaurant in your neighborhood? What’s a must-order?
AC: Miss Ada. Order the whipped ricotta and lamb shawarma and the Dead Sea and infinite pita bread.
Favorite Fort Greene coffee shop?
AC: Bittersweet. Order an iced americano with home-made almond milk and a blackberry scone.
Fort Greene bar?
AC: Bar Bolinas. It’s named after my favorite place in the world. Get a tequila and the Bolinas Wings.
Any interesting shops?
What else are you into in Fort Greene?
AC: Fort Greene Farmers Market—every Saturday, rain-or-shine. Get She Wolf bread and Painted goat cheese, and pick up some Alex Crane linens. we have a stall at the market. It’s the greatest Farmers Market in all of New York City. And then have a picnic in Fort Greene Park. I’m in Fort Greene Park every weekend. It’s like Central Perk in Friends or Chubbie’s in Boy Meets World—you’re guaranteed to run into everyone you know.
What would your ideal day-to-night look like in New York?
AC: A drive with my wife, Caroline, to the Rockaways in the early morning. Run and swim; read and write. Maybe play some guitar. Get some tacos and then head back to Fort Greene in the afternoon. Then work on a project with Caroline—maybe she’s painting and I’m drawing. In the evening, meet friends at Miss Ada’s for a drink and a bite. Then take a meandering bike ride to Baby’s All Right and catch a good show. And go to sleep early enough so that I’m fresh in the morning.
If you could raid anyone’s closet, whose would it be and what would you take?
AC: Probably Bob Dylan’s closet from 1963. I wouldn’t take anything—I’d just look at it.
What is your favorite song that reminds you of the New York you love?
AC: “New York City Serenade” by Bruce Springsteen.
What’s the best neighborhood to check out the art scene in New York? Have any favorite artists?
AC: Caroline Z Hurley is my favorite artist, but I’m biased because she’s my wife. I also love Bosco Sodi—Caroline and I got married at his art residency-studio in Mexico. I think Red Hook is the right place to see art these days. Go to Pioneer Works.
What do you do/where do you go when you’re feeling uninspired?
AC: If I can swing it, I jump in the ocean. All I really need is ocean water to feel whole again. If I can’t get to the ocean, I go running and try to get lost in Prospect Park.
What can’t you travel without and why? What’s your favorite destination?
AC: If I’m going someplace warm, I’ve got to bring a good selection of Bo Shorts and Playa Shirts—it’s the right outfit for a warm breeze. Most of my favorite places are in Mexico and California; I love Baja, Mexico City, and Oaxaca. I also love Bolinas and Big Sur and the Lost Coast.
WORDS Alex Catarinella