“Everything happens for a reason,” says Alex Vinash with a subtle shrug — it’s a pretty easy-going mantra for a guy sitting next to a pillow embroidered with the words “High Maintenance,” neatly propped up on the plush white armless daybed in his new Southampton store.
But for Vinash, joy is all about jumping in feet first, embracing the contradictions, surprises and out-and-out curve balls of life. It’s that spirit that landed him here in the first place, a twisty, turny route from his native Argentina to Europe to eastern Long Island. And weather he’s in his thoroughly dazzling eponymous store on Hampton Road in Southampton, in the new Columbus, Ohio outpost, or at the very first shop he opened on Main Street in Greenport, you can bet he’s embracing each and every change that comes his way — which is just about as haute as you can get.
Ice, Ice Baby
There’s no small dollop of dazzle on display in the Southampton store. Anchored by a spinning disco-ball, the new boutique is giddy glam from the get-go. From the pink mirrored entryway, to the white monkey chandelier above Vinash’s signature water feature (“I always have a fountain in my stores,” he says) to the eye-catching, brightly colored dresses displayed on walnut wood hangers, to the giant pink book case displaying his line of women’s summer shoes — gold-strappy rattan wedges, supremely stacked silken platforms in turquoise, hot pink and gold — and bright-hued beaded purses begging to be busted out for a day or night on the town.
“In the Hamptons, there are lots of events, and I have clothes for them,” he says (which is why he changes and mixes up the patterns and styles weekly; as he knows, no one wants to show up to a party wearing the same outfit). “I was at an event at the Parrish, and a whole bunch of women were wearing my dresses and they were all getting compliments. This is my goal.”
This desire to create both delight in how a person looks and, ultimately, feels is indeed part of Vinash’s design drive, but it is also part of the showmanship he inhabited in his former career as Argentina’s national champion in men’s figure skating. In that role, it was about athleticism, certainly, but also about generating a vibe, via music, choreography and, of course, costumes.
Akin to his DIY entry into clothing design, Vinash was a self-taught skater. “My friends and I would watch skating on ESPN, record the skaters on VHS to see how they moved and jumped. The tapes were so scratched because I would rewind and rewind,” he laughs.
From the age of 17, he competed in Argentina while studying hotel management on the side. He caught the eye of a London-based ice dancing scout who offered him a three-month contract touring Europe. “I said, why not? It was super hard because I was switching from really technical skating to dance, and I’m tall, too, which was more difficult.” But the nimble Vinash did so well, he was offered more shows that took him to a multitude of countries—Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Greece. Along the way, he found himself inspired by the bright and beautiful costumes from the shows he was in and in the places he’d visit, especially those of the famous Lido de Paris cabaret, the exotic floor show of dancers with outrageous, feathered, eye-catching costumes.
It was a career that lasted nine years in all. “I wanted to see everything; I wanted to see the world! And I loved it,” he says. “Back then, the only way to Instagram life was to actually go and see a place and live it.” But life on the road began to wear on him and, on the brink of turning 30, he decided to pivot into a new career: costume design for skating. Much of what was out there was not great, to Vinash’s eye, and also expensive. He opened a studio in Barcelona, making a name for himself as the go-to ex-skater for costumes and leotards.
Cutting a new pattern
Word spread, and the next thing he knew Vanity Fair magazine came knocking, asking if he’d create costumes for grand editorial spreads. His leotards were being combined with clothes from names like Dolce and Gabana. Non-skaters started buying his pieces, too, and wearing them as cute, cool street fashion. Suddenly, the skater kid from South America was a sought-after designer.
“Literally, a year after I started making costumes, I got a call from someone at New York Fashion Week offering me a show,” he says. During that trek, he met the man who would become his partner in life and business for the next eight years, Brent Pelton, owner of American Beech and several other hospitality businesses in Greenport’s Stirling Square, all designed with Vinash panache.
It was here he opened his first namesake Alex Vinash boutique in 2021. In the window on a mannequin is an eye-catching marshmallow-white suit with a glorious, feathered train worn by the actor Billy Porter at the 2020 Golden Globes. It is, indeed, a showstopper — but it also made some locals wonder why a creature of couture would plunk a shop down on Main Street Greenport.
But this is the crux of Vinash: he wants his clothes to be attainable. “You already have a white top and a black top, and white pants and black pants — you want something that ups the ante a bit. And not for a special occasion necessarily. My clothes are for a date or a summer wedding or a meal out at a restaurant. I want you to remember the dress. Otherwise, I’m just another store.”
Indeed, in Greenport or Southampton, Vinash is not about making clothes that are unreachable. A splurge for some of us? Sure. But in the realm of possibility because to him, fashion is about feeling good and creating an egalitarian spirit that can be shared.
“My point is to bring style to people that they can actually use,” he says. “But I don’t do basic — my clothes are not necessary. This is a market for fun. My clothes are also not so super expensive. It’s not a $10,000 dress for an event that you wear once.”
Last winter, Vinash and Pelton split, and the designer decided it was time to shake things up and push himself out of his comfort zone yet again. “I’ve learned I don’t need that much money to live. I was a gypsy touring in shows for a long time. My goal is not to have a private plane — it’s to have a good business and have fun with my job,” he says. “The pandemic taught me to stop and appreciate what’s around me. I love that I wake up and I am surrounded by color. I love to be with my friends. And I’m Latin, so I love my naps, too!”
In January, he opened the Columbus, Ohio, store (“Every great fashion brand starts there,” he says). And on April 23rd, the first Hamptons outpost of Alex Vinash launched right in time for the summer season.
The store, which is located at 25 Hampton Road, will be open daily, Monday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday – Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m..
“All these places are beautiful, but people are still wearing jeans and hoodies,” Vinash says, surrounded by his colorful cache of arresting attire. “I think we can do better!”