A brand with a new “history” Orondava Mumford was brought into Alternative to give the already-loved fashion line a subtle, yet updated, collection. Here, fresh on the heels of his new appointment, speaks to Life+Times about shaking things up…one Peruvian blanket at a time.
Life+Times: In 2013, you joined Alternative as the brand’s Design Director. Tell me a little bit about what your job entails?
Orondava Mumford: Upon joining the brand as design director, my focus was to first understand Alternative’s product history and manufacturing methods which made them so unique. The design team and I then worked closely with the brand’s merchandising and marketing teams to edit, then amplify the brands core strengths as a knit based fabric manufacturer, outfitting the modern creatives of today and tomorrow. Following Spring 2013, my responsibilities for the brand grew to include creative direction for the brand as well.
L+T: You’ve worked at Converse and Levi’s – and now, you’re at a brand that is celebrating it’s 20th year. What direction do you see the aesthetic going in?
OM: Looking at Alternative’s youthful ‘history’ in comparison to brands with a century plus product archives like Levi’s or Converse, I can see the parallels in simply seeking aesthetic modernity for the needs of today. Both Levi’s and Converse are brands based in innovation through design thinking rather than style or fashion. Levi’s created the jean as an answer to modern work wear during the gold rush and Converse a shoe for a modern sports who’s influence lasted longer in fashion than the sport itself. At Alternative, we are part of a very young American fabric innovation movement, in search of replicating vintage American sportswear fabrics like the heathered tri-blend and finding natural performing fibers to blend and create new materials. The aesthetic we’ve arrived at is a mash-up between Japanese modernity, Scandinavian rusticity, and washed-in-California cool.
L+T: When it comes to the ultimate Alternative “guy” and “girl,” how do you define them? What are they like? What are their interests?
OM: The ultimate Alternative is the modern creative. Someone who truly lives the famous L.P. Jacks quote about [being] a master in the art of living, drawing no sharp distinction between work & play, mind & body, labor, leisure, education, and recreation. Vision is perused through excellence; regardless so no one can tell if you are working or playing. Regardless if this is at least your mindset then you are indeed Alternative.
L+T: The aesthetic of your store, in SoHo at least, is very warm and comforting. What did you want to achieve with the shopping experience?
OM: The original Alternative flagship store on Abbot Kinney in Los Angeles was a Venice Beach Craftsman-style bungalow that we transformed to a store in 2011. It was important to keep that familiar, comforting feeling and only subtly introduce the brands evolved aesthetics to neighborhood we loved so much.
L+T: When I think of AA, I think of comfort. When you think of the brand – what comes to mind?
OM: Alternative is more than just apparel. We are part of a growing movement of doers and disruptors grounded in social responsibility. Rooted in athletics, we’re known for our signature softness and fabric innovation. Moving differently to reshape the way we live, we create modern basics for a sustainable future.
L+T: What do you want to do with AA to mix it up?
OM: I want to continue to disrupt through the platform Alternative has created of like-minded brands businesses & individuals creating profits through principles and classic product.
L+T: Fabric innovation is something that is important to both you and the brand. Can you tell me a little bit about this?
OM: Alternative has and will continue to invest time and development towards fabric innovation as we do see it as the foundation for creating simple sustainable product in the future. We have some very interesting and unexpected collaborations coming out next year, some I can speak of, some I cannot. One in particular is a collaboration with Alternative & Beams called “Home Sweet Home”, a four-style capsule made exclusively of Peruvian knits designed specifically for tasks no more than four blocks from your home.
L+T: You also create home décor, like pillows and blankets. Is this something you’re going to do more of?
OM: I love those blankets. They’re softer than a Sunday nap! It really depends. We made those pillows and blankets because we had some excess fabric in Peru and decided it would be a sustainable way to use up the fabric. I’d love to do more interior product, I’m a product designer initially and a huge fan, but we are sharply focused on fashion basics at the moment.