At the same time, he was beginning to learn about clothes from downtown stores like Yellow Rat Bastard, David Z and Michael K., as well as noting how older friends in the neighborhood dressed, particularly those who collected Polo pieces like art.
The earliest prep-leaning ALD collections were ravenously received by the online men’s wear media of the day, but Mr. Santis, working out of an office behind the diner, struggled with the basics of making clothes. At the time, he said, “People thought the brand is beautiful, but the product is absolute trash.”
As he was building out ALD — the brand’s name includes nods to his father’s nickname and his own name — Mr. Santis consistently turned to nontraditional people to form the core creative team. He met Anthony Bigio, now vice president for design, when Mr. Bigio was designing custom Air Force 1s for clients at Nike’s Mercer Street location. Joe Bavasso, now ALD’s vice president for product, had a job at Todd Snyder but sought out Mr. Santis in hopes that ALD would sponsor his summer basketball team in the Rockaways.
What links everyone is disposition. In the office, and in the store, and out in the world, most of the staff speaks in a gentlemanly, conspiratorial hush, as if letting each other, and you, in on something lightly startling that you should be grateful to know. The clothing becomes something of a memento, a token of inclusion.
Over the last couple of years, though, that sense of intimacy has been playing out on an ever-growing stage. ALD logo hoodies, Yankees and Mets caps with ALD script logos embroidered on the side, New Balance 550s: In corridors downtown, there has been an inescapability to what ALD has wrought.
A few years ago, Mr. Santis discovered the New Balance 550, a low-top lifestyle sneaker, in an old New Balance catalog and revived it as a collaborative release with ALD. Since then, the 550 has become in “a staple iconic franchise for New Balance,” said Chris Davis, the New Balance chief marketing officer and senior vice president for global merchandising. “It was one of those phenomenons in sneaker culture that only comes around once every few years.”