We can all appreciate the ultra-feminine look—blushing floral prints, lace pants, and curve-hugging dresses scream “woman!” But men (and masculinity) have truly re-defined fashion trends as well. As Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine puts it, “man repelling is outfitting oneself in a sartorially offensive mode that may result in repelling members of the opposite sex.” But is wearing bold, big-faced watches, full-length jumpsuits, bow ties, tailored business suits, ties, and scarves (which the less-sartorial men may not appreciate) really man repelling? We beg to differ, and so do Alina Cheung and Yidi Xu, the co-founders of Terracotta New York, a menswear-inspired women’s clothing e-commerce site. Cheung and Xu worked together as Associates at Credit Suisse for Retail and Consumer Products for several years until they decided to quit their jobs and start their own business. I spoke with Cheung recently to get an inside scoop on their business. “Working in a male-dominated environment in finance inspired us. We were always looking for a suit that would fit our bodies perfectly and the right accessories to match. Our clothes are an expression of who we are at work. We love the androgynous look. We worked many years on the retail and consumer product side that we felt that it was time to quit our jobs and follow our true passion: fashion,” Cheung says.
Cheung, who applied to the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.), says fashion was always an interest of hers, but she decided forgo her dreams to please her parents, and studied Economics at Columbia University. But the long, arduous hours of working in finance made her long for a career in fashion even more and that’s when she decided to start her own business with Xu.
“When Yidi and I were playing around with the idea of starting our own business, she remembers how I used to always sketch and draw on everything. It really got me thinking that I should pursue the career that I want, so we both decided to join forces and Terracotta was born,” Cheung enthuses.
Terracotta New York gets its name from the “Terracotta Warriors,” the clay warriors that defended the first Qin Emperor. Each warrior was crafted by hand and colored with pink, blue, and lilac inks. Moreover, they would each wear a sculpted neck tie. Today, Terracotta New York houses an assortment of 100 percent silk ties and wool and leather bow-ties, which are all made in New York City, and silk chiffon scarves, which are made in Italy. Unlike Italian-made scarves, which sell at an average of $300 per silk tie, Terracotta sells them for about $175, a much more affordable price for luxury items.
So what’s next for Terracotta? Cheung and Xu have teamed up with Bottica.com, a online boutique for jewelry and fashion accessories from emerging designers, to sell and showcase their pieces. Cheung says they are looking to create subscription packages, where they select pieces from their collection for their customers. And, of course, there are also plans to expand abroad.
“We’re getting a lot of press in Taiwan and Hong Kong about our collections, and we hope to expand our business there someday,” Cheung says.