FIT student Alex Lee is a man often in camouflage, but he certainly doesn’t blend in with the background. These days he can be spotted on the streets of New York, no doubt wielding his Canon SLR and sporting a colorful ensemble of vintage prints and graphics that is positively unique, eye-catching and, well, just plain cool. You can also find Lee on the pages of some of the country’s best-known fashion and photography blogs, such as Humans of New York.
“I'm into mixing things that aren't usually mixed,” says Lee of his own style. “And no matter what, almost everything I'm wearing is at least 20 years old.”
Despite the natural ease of Lee’s style and his passion for what he does, it wasn’t always so clear. “It wasn't until college that I really took an interest in fashion,” he says. “I noticed coming from a small town that I was sort of cut off from a lot of the things that have influenced me more in recent years.”
Originally from Medford, Massachusetts, Lee started off his freshman year of college at Syracuse University. It was not at Syracuse, however, that Lee found his current path. After his freshman year he transferred to Boston College, where he quickly became known on campus as the guy with the camera and the fashion blog. Lee began running the BC Sartorialist (www.bcsartorialist.tumblr.com), which he says was devoted to recognizing people at Boston College who strayed from the norm in their personal style. “It was less about the photos and more about what people were wearing,” he says.
From there, Lee threw himself further into the fashion world, bought a sewing machine and taught himself how to use it to make his own clothes of the vintage fabrics he loves.
One day, he decided to just go for it and start the brand. “I bought some vintage fabric and I sewed it onto the sleeves of a blank sweatshirt. I posted it online and people took notice,” Lee says. The brand has grown from there–Lee joined forces with his good friend Will Thompson last January, and together they launched their website and first collection over the summer.”
This brand is XXBC (twenty BC), a line of vintage inspired street-wear that consistently maintains uniqueness through funky use of patterns and colors. Lee and his co-founder Thompson kicked off the brand at Boston College, and after receiving an overwhelmingly positive response, quickly realized that to do it right, they had to be in the Big Apple. Lee transferred for the second time to FIT, where he is studying advertising and marketing communications.
“It was hard, but at the same time I knew [moving] was what I had to do if I wanted to be happy. I'm a strong believer that your job should be an extension of your interests and what you love to do. I knew that these are things I could do for the rest of my life and enjoy every second of it. BC is a great school and I was very fortunate to be there, but I knew New York was the place for me. In hindsight, I'm glad I made the move. I feel at home in New York.”
Above all, Lee hopes that his work will inspire others to express their inner color through what they wear. His catch phrase, “when in Rome, do you” is the XXBC way encouraging people to be themselves. For Lee, this is “the realest advice I can give anyone who's trying to make something happen. Don't worry about what anyone else is doing, just focus on your goals and your vision. Stay true to yourself and good things will follow. I honestly believe that.”
What is next for this young student, entrepreneur and designer? “We are still taking it slow and want to cherish the time we have to make XXBC something special,” says Lee. “We hope to release a second collection of one-of-a-kind sweatshirts in the fall, and I am working on developing the reconstructive chapter of XXBC, where I make unique pieces out of vintage sportswear.”
Note: All photos are Alex Lee originals, sourced from his website, wirdyblog.com