The husband-wife team behind a breakthrough high-fashion line were influenced by Midwestern roots.
By Amanda Rahn
Photography by Viviana Pernot
It’s hard enough to find someone compatible enough to start a business with, let alone someone compatible enough to marry, but Julie and Jason Alkire manage to make it work together.
The couple started the New York City-based fashion line Haus Alkire — a combination of their last names — six years ago and sparked a buzz in the high-fashion industry with appearances in Vogue and runways around the world ever since.
The couple recently visited Detroit for a Fashion for Breakfast event, hosted by SEEN and Soho House, at the Shinola Hotel. During a panel talk, the two explained they do nearly everything themselves. Julie primarily constructs the pieces while Jason, a visual artist, incorporates his own art into the line.
“Everything is done in New York City,” says Jason, 48. “The textiles are from Italy or Japan, and we construct and design things here. It’s an artisanal way of doing things.”
“We get up in the morning, and we have breakfast together every day and we kind of chat about our day a little bit,” adds Julie, 45. “It happens that we have a studio uptown, and he works at our space downtown, so we do have separation for like half the day — which is nice!”
The couple met during college in Houston, Texas. Julie is a Texas native, while Jason spent his early years in Metro Detroit. The two got married and moved to New York City to work in fashion 16 years ago.
While Jason has now lived in New York City and other cities around the country for most of his life, he says his Midwestern roots continue to influence Haus Alkire: The pieces may be luxurious, but they’re also made to last.
“We’ve always considered ourselves sustainable,” Jason says. “We’re not overproducing synthetic stuff. The idea that something is ‘fast’ (fashion), that you’re going to wear it four times, it makes no sense to someone who is conscious about anything.”
“You’re living in these clothes all day,” Julie adds. “It needs to move and have a finish on it, so if you spill something it’s not ruined. You’re investing in these clothes.”
Julie’s commitment to craftsmanship extends to the smallest details. She says she considers how the fabric will feel and how it will fit the body for every single piece they create. She even designed one silk blouse to be double layered so it can be worn reversed.
“It’s two layers, no seams, double finished all the way around,” she says. “All the hooks are Italian, so they close like a latch. There are a lot of little things you have to look closely at.”
Her grandmother taught her how to sew when she was 12 years old, she says, and Julie has spent most of her life improving her craft.
Meanwhile, Jason’s fascination and talent with painting and photography is an integral part of the fashion line. Many of the clothes feature his own floral designs or photography, though the two choose to keep the colors muted and prints minimalist.
“We found this incredible Chinese print from 1890, but we were like, ‘How can you wear that? Who is going to wear that? How can you make that new?’ I was like, ‘Oh, make something more graphic,’ ” he says. “Cherry blossoms can be big and pink, very graphic, so I just sat down and looked at an old photograph of mine and hand-inked a cherry blossom and layered that into the design.”
Another top showcases his photography. He dehydrated roses, suspended them over a black board and shot them with his camera on a mirror. After, he hand painted the areas lacking “the right depth of color” and reshot it.
“It’s pretty complex,” he says. “That’s one of our more elaborate prints.”
Pieces run from about $300 for a blouse to $2,000 for jackets. Customers interested in the architectural, structured designs can purchase ready-to-wear items like dresses, tops, pants and jackets on their website hausalkire.com.
While the pair have their hands full creating the seasonal clothing lines, they are planning a future home goods collection. They’re not sure what the items will look like just yet, they say, but customers can be sure every piece will have the same intense craftsmanship and attention to detail.