Portland, Maine–based designer Alex Carleton has had a long-standing appreciation for tradition — worn-in clothes, antique furniture, heritage brands — so his return to L.L. Bean Signature last year as creative director (where he was originally hired as a senior designer in 1998) feels particularly apt. He first attracted the attention of Ralph Lauren Polo while he was restoring antiques in Boston: the brand hired him to head up visual merchandising for its Madison Avenue store. After stints at Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch, and L.L. Bean, he left the company in 2003 to launch his own label, Rogues Gallery, built on an impeccably broken-in collection of vintage-inspired tees. (The label earned him a nomination for GQ’s Best New Menswear Designer in America last year.)
This spring has been a resurgence of sorts for Carleton. He scaled back Rogues Gallery’s wholesale operations last month and launched L.L. Bean Signature, a more youthful spinoff brand. "Guys who wear my clothes aren’t looking to make a huge statement," he explains, "He just wants something that’s reliable, comfortable, and transcends time and fashion a little bit." He also partnered with John Bartlett for the second RG/JB capsule collection, which will be available exclusively at Bartlett’s store this summer. We talked to Carleton about his vision for L.L. Bean Signature, the future of Rogues Gallery, and his latest eBay obsession.
What distinguishes the Signature collection from traditional L.L. Bean?
I was brought back on to help articulate and define this sub-brand; it was primarily about working with the fit and making pieces from the archives relevant to a younger generation. We brought back the featherweight hunting jacket for him and the shirtdress for her.
What made you decide to sign on for another round with the RG/JB collaboration?
It was so much fun the first time that we decided to keep it going. Both collections are cheeky and not to be taken too seriously. They’re just really creative capsules that are inventive and playful.
Rogues Gallery closed its New York showroom last month. What does the future look like for Rogues?
Right now I’m working on spring 2011, a smaller collection that I’m more closely involved with. We’re really focusing on our own retail and e-commerce outlets. We're opening our first multi-brand store on Cape Cod Memorial Day weekend.
What kind of a person wears your designs?
Anybody who appreciates classics. It's important to me that Rouges Gallery and L.L. Bean have longevity. That's very much how I think when I’m designing: something that you could pull out of a chest in fifteen years and still be able to pull off.
Who are your favorite designers?
I really love products that are not specifically designed. I love Dickies, Hanes white T-shirts, C.F. Hathaway poly-cotton white oxford cloth shirts, and great vintage pieces, like my navy blue YSL sweater. But I’m also a fan of Dior and John Galliano.
Where do you like to shop in New York?
I definitely buy a lot of used items. I shop at Dave’s New York in Chelsea and I’ll pick up flannels at Goodwill in Portland, Maine.
How would you describe your personal style?
I might wear a pair of old chinos that I’ve been working in with a newer blue blazer from Old England in Paris and a chambray shirt from L.L. Bean. I think it’s very much about mixing geography and eras, but putting it together in your own way. It’s very natural — I don’t think I look like I’m making a statement.
What trends are you appreciating right now?
There’s this ubiquitous nod to tradition. I like the juxtaposition of old-school labels, like Alden, being mixed in with newer brands.
Any trends you’re ready to see retired?
I do think that men’s apparel can become a little more relaxed. We’ve gotten a little suit-y. I’m definitely naturally more of a Carhartt kind of guy.
What’s one item you’re saving to buy?
I’m on eBay pretty regularly. My passion lately has been buying vintage patches from old marinas and outdoor motor companies and embellishing sweatshirts and flannel shirts. If I was going to buy something new, it would probably be a beautiful navy sweater from Scotland.
What should every guy have in his closet?
A white Oxford cloth button-down shirt and maybe a bottle of Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior.
What’s something you never leave the house without?
My Brittany Spaniel, Ranger. I got him when he was 8 weeks old and he’s 11 years old now.
Most Viewed Stories
‘Weed Dick’ Is the New Way for Men to Sexually Disappoint You
Portraits of Privilege: A Teen Demands Mac ’n’ Cheese
How to Get Out of Any Party Conversation
The Big Secret of Every Dating App: Tech Doesn’t Matter
Amber Rose, Populist Slut Hero of Our Time
7 Alternatives to Those Sold-Out L.L. Bean Boots
Staving Off Cynicism at Comme des Garçons, McQueen, and Céline
Adriana Lima on Boxing, Brazilian Beauty Secrets
Why Do I Jerk Awake Right As I’m Falling Asleep?
From Our Partners
Fabulous Find of the Week: Forever 21 Trench Coat
Here's What To Buy From J.Crew's HUGE 75-Percent-Off Sale!
20 Simple Secrets to Your Most Beautiful Life
5 Eyeliner Rules Most Women Break (and How to Redeem Yourself)
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesWatch the Louis Vuitton Livestream
Enjoy!Libertine’s Designer Once Faked a Note From Cher
And other anecdotes from his new book.See All the Street Style From Paris Fashion Week
Rihanna, Salma Hayek, and Phoebe Philo were among the peacocks.Karl Lagerfeld Won’t Offer Himself Up to Science
He says researchers have approached him about testing his DNA.Staving Off Cynicism at Comme des Garçons, McQueen, and Céline
A counterpoint to luxury-mongering.Cate Blanchett Wore a Hot-Pink Suit
Barbie, is that you?All About Chanel’s Airport-Themed Show
Paging Mr. Lagerfeld!Watch the Valentino Livestream
Enjoy!5 Things I Want to Wear From Paris: Part 3
Stripes, embroidered separates, and Céline studded boots.Cindy Crawford on Bagels, Instagirls, and Bringing the Supermodel Era to TV
And how she's helping her daughter navigate the pressures of the modeling industry.
Dreamy.See Our Exclusive Portfolio From Paris Fashion Week
Another fashion month dispatch from photographer Tomasz Lazar.Coddington, Kawakubo Star in Interview Portfolio
They were photographed for a sweeping 60-page section by Fabien Baron.American Apparel Files for Bankruptcy
Current shareholders, including Dov Charney, will no longer control the company.The Retired Modeling Agent Who Loves Empire
“I started my own agency — we represented Twiggy — but went off to be assistant to the actor Yul Brynner, who was dating my roommate at the time.”Bright Coats for Cold Days
New York women in winter's least-boring outerwear, from bright-green alpaca fur to leopard-print mohair.Céline’s Woman-Friendly Triumph
Phoebe Philo remains in touch with what women want to wear.Watch the Alexander McQueen Livestream
Enjoy!Watch the Akris Livestream
Enjoy!From Up Close, Raf Simons’s Vision for Dior Is Clear
And don't count John Galliano out at Margiela yet.