Like many fashion designers and creatives, Alex O’Kane’s love of fashion was revealed at a very young age. From being surrounded by clothes from his mother’s work with designer Fernando Sánchez to devouring his aunt’s fashion magazines, he was a constant. But instead of immediately going to study fashion, O’Kane focused on art history and entered the family electrical business after college. Meanwhile, his passion for fashion, then at odds with his career, continued to grow.
After breaking free of the family business, Alex dropped the apostrophe from his last name and established his eponymous label Okane in 2021. With just two collections to his credit thus far and many more in the sketchbook, Alex’s vision of menswear It picks up where the 2016-2018 fashion of subverted menswear left off. His focus is on quality clothing. No tricks. No overproduction. Just a clever mix of fine fabrics and reimagined historical elements. Although the clothes are unmistakably menswear archetypes, O’Kane’s practice aims to go a little further, always offering something wearable, yet subtly tempting.
What makes the New York-based brand even more genuine is that all of its operations, from design to cut and sew, take place in Manhattan’s famed garment district. In today’s climate, where most operations are outsourced, O’Kane wanted a core element of his brand to be support for NYC.
HYPEBEAST sat down with Alex O’Kane to discuss the story behind the creation of his eponymous label, what fuels his designs, and how his work envisions the evolving state of menswear.
HYPEBEAST: When you first established your brand, what was your idea of what the Okane archetype would be?
Alex O’Kane: I find that a lot of times, young brands say, “what’s your thing?” Then they fall into that “thing” and it’s done season after season, which is great for two or three years, but then they have nowhere to go with it. So I’m less about one specific thing. I’m an eclectic person, and as I get older what I like is going to keep changing. Every season I want my clothes to be a little different, but for some of the underlying things to be connected, whether it’s womenswear details in the construction, or for the fit and shape to be a little less slim and streamlined and make things more creative with pattern cutting. which is not so common in men’s fashion.
So what are those trademark shades?
I like a combination of something romantic and a little bit dark and fucked up. My source of inspiration is television and cinema. I love a period piece, a horror movie or a thriller.
In that sense, how did you start creating your FW22/23 collection?
The idea was inspired by a dream that turned into a nightmare. But she also didn’t want anything to be too disguised. I still want you to be able to pull something off, and at the end of the day it’s just a nice cashmere jacket. For this season, the most important things she was looking at were textures and details on the back. The two biggest themes were historical influences and turn of the century medical surgical clothing and a sense of femininity or simplicity in clothing.
I also liked the idea of having an open back. Interestingly, the great Rei Kawakubo interprets historical Japanese fashion and modern fashion by mixing East and West. In Japanese fashion, the back is more of a focal point, especially the nape of the neck. He wanted to add a similar finesse to men’s fashion.
What movies or TV shows inspired some of the season’s looks?
One was Steven Soderbergh’s The Knick and that’s where some of the medical material came from. There is also a photosphere in the 60’s of these Romanian twin brothers. The three main things would be historical clothing, religious clothing, or the concept of uniforms in different settings.
How do some of the pieces this season convey those themes?
I had to put all this texture together, which made me think of medieval and modern. I wanted latex, fur, cashmere, ultrasuede, and leather. From a tonal point of view, everything is very simple, the texture was where I wanted it to play, and then I began to slowly introduce moments with small details, but without making it too massive.
“I wanted to add a similar finesse to menswear.”
Clearly, the fabric plays a very important role in your pieces. Why is that?
When I was a kid, my mom would make fun of me because if she took me shopping, she would only do this. [grazes hand across rack of clothes] And what I would like would be the softest and I would get it. She’d say, “You don’t know what it looks like.” I would answer: “But I like it”. So the feeling is very important to me.
You started simple with your first collection, and with your second collection your vision comes to life a little more. How do you envision the growth of your brand and its collections?
I’ve written each season’s collection for the next decade, essentially the general ideas of how I want things to flow. It’s not going to be the same collection in different colors and fabrics every season, is it? How can you tap on all these different things that interest you in a way that makes sense and one thing leads to the next? It was really a way of creating a road map to think about things.
Do you think your clothes will always keep this refined minimalist aesthetic?
I don’t think I’ll ever be super maximalist. Next season there are two focal prints I want to work with, but other than that the colors are tonal. I like to focus the tone somewhere in this, and that makes it easier for me to do more things with shape.