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Fashion has always existed on a spectrum, and right now, that runs the gamut from workleisure to platform Crocs and nightclub-lingerie. For all-American apparel brand Alpha Industries, its military-esque style neatly fits into those intersecting extremes.
But, Alpha Industries’ evolution from military outfitter to consumer-facing lifestyle brand does not mean sacrificing its roots. “We’re never going to stop selling the [military] surplus,” said Mike Cirker, president and CEO of Alpha Industries.
Alpha Industries, founded by Cirker’s grandfather in 1959, expanded the reach of its bomber coats, aviation flight jackets and parkas in the ’70s as individuals became enamored by the style of the “American cool guys” in the military worldwide. While the brand continues to associate with service stars, such as with its Heritage Collection that pays homage to its original Mil-Spec Flight Jacket, Alpha Industries has also dipped into the world of entertainment. In 2016, the brand collaborated with Kanye West on the rapper’s Yeezy tour merchandise bomber jacket. It also teamed with celebrity stylist Maeve Reilly, who dresses Hailey Bieber and Megan Fox, on Alpha’s fall 2021 collection.
“We’re pushing the boundaries on reinventing old military or utilitarian wear for today’s [consumer],” said Cirker. “It’s about the story for us.”
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Why the whys matter
“Every brand out there has a bomber jacket. But does every brand know why? And do they tell the story of why the lining is bright orange? Do they know that you can reverse it? [It is made] this way because if the pilots ever crash-landed and needed to get out because they were in enemy territory, they could reverse their jackets to a high visibility orange, so that they could be rescued. Or if [a brand] is going to sell a field coat, do they have the special tab that goes on the wrist, which was originally designed to protect these guys and connected to a special glove that prevented radiation poisoning if there was a nuclear attack? Or why there’s a hidden hood? All the whys matter.”
“We started up a vintage, deadstock and upcycling section to our website. We call it ‘Operation Resupply.’ Because of our long history, Alpha has a lot of contacts in the vintage and military-vintage trade. We have great access to all of these vintage products and deadstock, too… We know these vendors that have shipped [products] but never issued them to anybody, and they sat in [a] depot somewhere [that had] jackets, bags, tents or whatever it was that was made for the military. And now they get sold. It’s the real thing, just unused; it’s deadstock. It’s cool, rare and hard to find.”
On adapting to inventory scarcities
“Next fall is going to be our first Alpha pop-up in New York. This is a necessity for brands these days, particularly as the cost of digital marketing goes up. These are ways to reduce that cost per acquisition… Certain brands, particularly the small brands, don’t have the capacity and the financial backing to drive [digital marketing]. There’s probably a number of these small, independent brands that are struggling. Then you hear the big news [that] Nike has already said they expect their sales to be down something like 30%, purely based on lack of inventory. It’s going to be an interesting holiday. I’d be surprised if we go into Black Friday and people are still pushing these enormous promotions because there simply isn’t inventory.”