Quinton de’ Alexander is one of Chicago’s most prominent fashion designers. His specialty is haute couture evening gowns. Born in New Orleans, he grew up near the French Quarter and was immersed in Mardi Gras and fancy spectacular festivals.
Quinton moved to Chicago as a teen. He is very tall, athletic, has boundless energy, and played sports. He is also theatrical with set designs, costumes and acting. His first fashions were featured at the New Orleans Country Club.
Quinton designs today under the label Chez de’Alexander. His new exhibit, BLUEPRINT, recently opened at the DuSable Museum. N’DIGO recently sat down to chat with the designer known as The Ambassador of Fashion as he was preparing to open the exhibit.
N’DIGO: How did you become a fashion designer?
Quinton de’ Alexander: I was always in awe of the old black and white movies as a child. I was taken by the beautiful clothing of Bette Davis, Marlene Dietrich. I saw a sewing machine at the age of eight and I started sewing. I made perfect potholders and kitchen curtains from looking at samples hanging in the kitchen. I was just taken by fashion. I am self-taught and have never had a sewing class.
When did you know that your career would be as a fashion designer?
I knew at eight years old. One Christmas I got a car racetrack and my brother got a train track. I had no desire to play with these toys. I was into suits and dress clothes. I wanted to dress like my father. He was a businessman and a deacon at the church. I admired the way he dressed. The men in the old movies dressed so well.
I gave my toys away and I told my parents I wanted suits and shoes…after I got a whupping. But they took me shopping and bought me clothes. I just wanted clothes for the holidays rather than toys. My neighbors took notice and they began to commission me. I put on fashion shows for my neighbors and friends. My first fashion show was “Oh, What a Night” when I was 14 years old.
Do you like designing for men or women best?
Both. But I really like women best.
You are known for your evening gowns, which is called “Drama Dressing.” How did this come about?
Whenever the person I have designed for walks in a room, there is the “wow!” factor. People say I bring the drama, thus my drama dresses.
Who are your favorites stars of today that you would like to design for?
Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, and Eva Longoria. I like regal ladies. So many of today’s stars look like sluts as they strut the red carpet.
How did the Blueprint exhibit come about?
I do an annual fashion show at the DuSable Museum for women who have had cancer. As we were talking once discussing my celebration, I suggested an exhibit. I insisted on being in charge so that it would be flawless. It’s called Blueprint because it represents my DNA. The exhibit represents me starting at eight years old to date. It demonstrates my life story through my fashion designs and media.
Who are your favorite designers?
I only have one. Valentino. I like him because his lines are clean, elegant and sophisticated. They are not over the top. His designs will never go out of style.
What should a woman look for in a designer? What are your fashion tips?
A woman should look for a designer that truly cares and puts her first. It also depends on where you are going. A designer should treat a woman with the utmost respect. I pick out the fabric, the jewelry, the shoes, and review the hairstyle and make up. The look is a total look. It’s a total package from head to toe.
That’s what clients like about me. It’s not just about the dress. I sit and talk to my clients to get to know their personalities. It is important to know the mood and the personality. What reaction do you want from a dress, is a primary question. Do you want to blend it or do you want to make an entrance? I like knocking people off of their feet.
How do you best work?
I am a do-everything person. I am hands on from beginning to end. I actually make the garments, from measuring to sewing, fitting and final completion. I even teach women how to walk.
What would you most like to do that you have not done yet?
Create a television show, Fireside Forum. The show would inspire and be a source of empowerment for people that feel they have nowhere to turn. I would like to teach people to have a clear mind to handle situations.