How a Button-Down Shirt Attracted a Cult Following (2023)

Even in New York City, surrounded by expansive department stores and basement boutiques, Alex Drexler couldn’t find the perfect button-down shirt. 

Alex’s quest for the perfect shirt with details like a “weighty button” led him to design his own, launching Alex Mill in 2012. Since then, Alex Mill has gained a cult following online and especially around New York, where the brand draws a lot of its inspiration. 

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Designing head to toe

Once Alex Mill mastered the perfect button-down, it wasn’t long before the brand applied the same principles to other wardrobe staples. Using high-quality fabrics and with a discerning attention to detail, Alex Mill expanded into jackets, pants, and women’s clothing.

All the while, CEO Roxanne Stahl says the company’s offering remained focused on timeless pieces. “I think a lot of brands can run the risk of trying to be everything to everybody,” Roxanne says. “The clothes all need to work together. If it doesn’t all work together, then I think you lose the customer, because they don’t know what to buy.”

A man and woman in Alex Mill corduroy suits
Alex Drexler wants to help customers create their own personal uniform, whether it’s a suit or another combination of wardrobe basics. Alex Mill

Never underestimating word-of-mouth marketing

Alex and Roxanne say that word of mouth helped the company grow, even in the digital age. “One of the things that I’m most proud of is our connection with our customers and the community,” Alex says. “Endorsement from the community is more important than spending tons of money on a paid ad.”

To be successful with word-of-mouth marketing, you need a great product that people want to talk about. For example, Alex Mill doesn’t pay for influencer marketing, but it works with creators of all sizes who want to incorporate the company’s clothes into their own style and content. 

Making creative relatable

When Alex Mill is planning its creative campaigns, it showcases its own city. “Whether it’s a quick Instagram or a larger editorial campaign, we’ll just go outside and shoot it. New York is our best backdrop,” Roxanne says. That helps the brand speak to its New York–based customers, and encourages them to visit Alex Mill retail locations.

Often, Alex Mill uses its behind-the-scenes employees, from production managers to designers, as models for content. “I think that resonates with a lot of people. They want to see people they can relate to wearing these clothes,” Roxanne explains.

Collaborating on unique pieces

Alex Mill has found success collaborating with other fashion houses on pieces that could have never come from either company alone. The partnerships usually culminate with limited-edition (and sometimes even handmade) items that generate a lot of demand from the brand’s fans, such as when the brand recently collaborated with Japanese denim maker OMNIGOD. 

“We look for collaborators that have maybe a different point of view than we have and we feel like the combination together is more powerful,” Roxanne says.

To learn more about Alex Mill’s partnerships and its connection to New York City, listen to the full interview as part of the Shopify On Location series.

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