It isn’t easy being a young designer in New York City: you’re constantly out looking for investors, sourcing fabric, and in many cases balancing second jobs so they can afford to do what they love.
Last February, I attended The Twentyten fashion show at Pratt Institute‘s Manhattan campus and met Nina Zilka, one third of the design trio. Six months later, I’m meeting with Nina again. This time we’re at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where the Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation is located. The Incubator supports start-up companies like Alder (and previously, The Twentyten) with a variety of services ranging from business consulting to simply providing workspace.
A lot more than the name changed as the trio became a duo: Alder consists of Nina and former Twentyten designer David J. Krause. While the inspiration for this particular collection is very of-the-moment (imagine the wardrobe of an urban lumberjack’s girlfriend), there is an attention to detail that goes above and beyond: The designers created the striking print used for several of the pieces by photographing actual wood ¬†and overlaying the image with a floral print. The results are extraordinary and Nina is confident about quality-investment pieces over fast fashion. “You can go to H&M but it will fall apart,” she says.
In spite of the progress that David and Nina are making, there’s still a financial struggle. Nina works as the office manager for the Pratt Design Incubator while David is a professor at Pratt. Great success stories don’t exactly happen overnight. And though Nina and David are obviously talented, I’m just wondering when pretty girls with cool haircuts will form long lines outside Brooklyn hotspots like Bird, demanding their Alder. Fundamentally, though, these designers have created gorgeous pieces that are both classic and on trend. The question is, when will everyone else catch up?