INTERVIEW: Alder New York on Entrepreneurial Gear Shifting

Alder New York is an online retail shop and lifestyle brand that carries “uncomplicated haircare, skincare, and lifestyle basics that are genderless, effective, safe for daily use, and leave you looking and feeling your best.” They’re also Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator and Pratt Fashion alumni as well as a success story we’re proud to tell over and over.

While at the BF+DA, the founders, Nina Zilka and David Krause began as a women and menswear based brand with a side of apothecary, now the “side” is a full-fledged brand with Zilka and Krause steering a wildly successful ship. So what happens when an entrepreneur starts down one path only to find another one works better?

Check out our interview below…

How has business changed for you since you started Alder New York?

It’s changed quite a bit as we now have an entirely different business then when we started! When we first started Alder New York, we were a women’s and men’s clothing line. I started making some haircare products for myself completely on the side, and at a certain point, after enough friends had asked for it as a gift, we decided to design a bottle and label and put it up on our website for the holidays. Then Urban Outfitters and Refinery 29 (which at the time had an online store sort of like Gilt) contacted us to sell our hair and skincare products. It was only after three years that we started to take the beauty and grooming line seriously. In 2015, we finally decided to close the clothing line and focus solely on our skincare and haircare line.

Has focusing on apothecary now vs. a fashion brand made life easier?

Yes! So much easier! Looking back on traditional fashion, it’s really crazy how short the lifespan of a product is. There are at least four seasons so by the time you perfect say, a shirt, and get it to market, you basically have two months before that shirt is a sale item. There are definitely companies figuring out how to break that cycle, like Everlane or Study NY, but we were not one of them.

We love that in skincare and haircare, there aren’t these seasons, so we can take the time to truly perfect and test a product before we decide to bring it to market. Then, as we get feedback, we can continue to perfect that product, and it’s never “out of season.” It works much better with David’s and my perfectionist natures.

What are some of the things you are most proud of right now with your business?

This has been a big year for us! At the beginning of this year, David and I created a list of monthly goals for our company, and, through a lot of hard work, we’ve hit our goals. This past December we were featured in Goop’s holiday gift guide and carried in their L.A. pop-up shop, and are now part of their online store offerings. We’ve expanded to 25 Urban Outfitters, and we’re working on some very exciting (but secret) new skincare products that we will debut soon. It’s fulfilling to see see our goals manifest.

Your best advice for an entrepreneur based on your own experience.

David: Make sure you secure proper finances before you start something, so that you can do it the right way.

Nina: Be flexible. If you stick too rigidly to one way of doing something, you won’t be open to new opportunities. The most successful businesses are ones that are able to pivot to open markets.

To learn more about how brands are taking on sustainable strategies, check out the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator’s Sustainable Fashion Roadmap tool.