Alex Young, 53: The Appreciator

Alex Young, former DJ for Luscious Jackson, now Director of Haberdashery at Todd Snyder, discusses the art of made-to-measure clothing, body dysmorphia, and creating a trusting relationship with his clients. He shares his past career as a DJ, his latest music picks, and how his most inspirational person is his son. 

It was somewhat of an accident. Talented young Alex was discovered by the headlining 90s Luscious Jackson by giving them a mix tape (remember tapes?) and then touring with them as their on-stage DJ for years. Another somewhat random moment led to his current gig: Director of Haberdashery for Todd Snyder. The through line here is a deep respect for craft, a drive for excellence, and an understanding of quality across mediums. He has known some of the greats in both mediums, but the person who most inspires him is his 14-year-old son. 

How old are you?
I’m 53. 

Where were you born?
I was born in London.

How long have you been in the US?
28 years.

Could you describe what it is that you do?
My role is Director of Haberdashery. So, I’m the head of the Made-to-Measure department at Todd Snyder. 

How did you get into this?
It’s very accidental, actually. I was a DJ in a band, Luscious Jackson, for a really long time and the band broke up and I needed a job. I was in a hard space. A friend of mine worked for a store with the tailor and they said, “Do you want to come work for this store because you’re English? People like English people in this environment.” And I liked being around the tailor and I learned from him. As a musician, I respected his discipline because in a band obviously, there’s a lot of discipline involved to be that successful. So, I saw it in the tailor and I just really respected it. I’d always been into clothing. It seemed like it just accidentally happened and I just kept doing it. 

DJ Alex Young of Luscious Jackson with fan, Blockbuster E-Center, Camden, NJ, 08/08/1997

Let’s talk about music for a minute. How did that start?
I was living in Sheffield in England, and I was a DJ there. My friend was a tour manager and he was the tour manager for Luscious Jackson. And they were touring England. This was in 1994. And no one knew of them and they were like staying in his basement and it was freezing cold and they were really bummed out.

My friend said, “I’m going to have a party for them to cheer them up. So, will you DJ?” And I was like, “Sure.” So, I DJ’d this party. And Jill from Luscious Jackson kept on asking me what these records were and she was really enjoying what I was doing. Then she asked for a mixtape. I didn’t have a mixtape, but she was like, “Oh, you should come on tour with us and be our DJ.” I didn’t really buy it. “I’m not going with these girls, what are they talking about?” I’d never heard of them.  

I had job club the next day, which is when you basically try and apply for jobs, so you can carry on getting unemployment benefits. I was doing that and it sucked. So, I was like, “Let me just make this mixtape.” I stayed up all night and I made this mixtape and I found out where they were playing the next day. I got on a bus with my mixtape and I snuck backstage and I knocked on the dressing room door and I gave them my mixtape. She shut the door and was like, “Yeah, thanks.” I thought that was it. I didn’t hear from them. About three months later, I got a phone call from her, from Jill saying, “We really, really love your mixtape. We really want to bring you on tour.” So, they tried to get me a visa, and they couldn’t get me a visa. So, then she said, “We’re just going to bring you over anyway, your flight’s on Monday.” It was Friday. 

I packed up all my stuff and I got on a plane with a bag of records and a bag of clothes and I showed up at their rehearsal space, and I started playing what they were playing and doing my thing where they were rehearsing and then I got incorporated into the band and went on tour. Our first tour was Lollapalooza and then that was it. From 1994 to 2001.

What is your relationship to music now?
I still do it. I still DJ, but I’m very picky about where I do it. I’m not doing it for a living. So, I just do it when there are places I enjoy doing it.

What attracts you to tailoring?
Well, first of all, I should make it pretty clear I’m not a tailor. I’ve been involved for 20 years, and I respect the art of it. I think it’s really fun making clothing for people, and I think you get quite personal with that, and it’s a much more interesting way of communicating with people than in a regular retail environment. We get to work with tailors, which is phenomenal. And they’re very gifted, dedicated people. They’re very focused on what their art is and what they do, and they don’t really deviate from it, and they understand that it’s a constant learning process. A good tailor will never say they’ve mastered it, and I appreciate that kind of psychology to be around.

The other thing is it’s not really got anything to do with fashion. I mean, it’s more to do with symmetry and line and what’s right for someone’s body rather than a fashion decision. So, I think when you put all those things together, it makes it a lot more interesting way of dealing with clothing. That’s what I like about it. 

So, when someone comes in to see you at Todd Snyder, what’s the process? What is the dialogue when you’re trying to understand how they want to look?
A lot of it is observation, what we call discovery, which is basically what the event is that they’re making it for. What is the format of the event and then what is their personality and what is right for them?

It’s a lot of observation, a lot of questions, and guiding them through what is the right product for them. I’ve made enough suits of people, I made enough mistakes where I’ve realized what works and what doesn’t work and what’s the best approach to take.

At the end of the day, people want your guidance. You have to step into those shoes of taking that responsibility of someone looking for your guidance, and you have to own it a bit. Recently I’ve gotten more comfortable with that role. It’s more about my observation and about their body type, function, and what the event is. Who’s at the event? What is their personality? What are they comfortable in and what are they not comfortable in? And just taking all those factors and making something unique and special for them that’s really personal. There’s a lot of psychology involved. 

Most of us have a certain sense of dysmorphia. We don’t really understand how we look and what looks good on us- the pants are three inches too long. How do you manage someone’s dysmorphia?
It goes back to a lot of observation, rather than fashion. Some measurement or design choices are best based on symmetry. Some things won’t work, but some things will make you look better. The classic definition of beauty is it’s symmetrical. So, if you see someone’s face and it’s symmetrical, you go, “Oh, they’re really beautiful.” The same thing happens with clothing, it’s balanced symmetrically to someone’s body. 

It’s not about a particular body shape or a particular body type. It’s just people in general. Some things don’t work on me, some things don’t work on you, it’s about observing that from a tailoring point of view and making those suggestions.

Also, that plays into someone’s insecurities and psychologies. You see somebody, for example, has very short legs, so, tailoring the jacket to make the legs look longer is a symmetrical decision that’s going to be flattering.  

That’s why I think some dysmorphia is obviously a psychological insecurity state. That’s why having a trusting relationship with somebody and being able to communicate things with them makes them feel better and dislodge that dysmorphia and that anxiety. That’s one of the most rewarding things about doing this. You can make a suit for someone and you can see when they put it on that some of those anxieties have been lifted and they feel confident and they feel powerful. It’s quite a rewarding experience.

We all have to get rid of this concept that we’re perfect, or we should be perfect. And embrace the idea that imperfection is beauty and reality. I don’t think it’s something that you should shy away from discussing. The more you embrace it, the more it knocks down our barriers, trust happens and they know that you’re actually observing reality and helping them rather than pretending it’s not there. 

Once the suit is all fit, what is your goal, and how does the client feel when they walk out the door?
We want them to be really happy, that’s what we strive for. You can tell that there’s an exuberance there, happiness or confidence that they’re feeling. That’s what we want. If we don’t have that, then we failed somehow. Our goal is to make the client 100% satisfied because when you’re doing custom, a lot of people are searching for perfection a bit and they want it to be everything that they dreamed and how they felt. So, if you get that kind of satisfaction from a client where they just don’t want to take it off and they’re just beaming, it’s a really amazing feeling for us. 

What kind of music are you listening to?
Oh, it’s very eclectic. I like music. I don’t really have a genre that I favor.  

When you’re putting together a set, do you plan it out beforehand or do you sort of go with the vibe?
It’s a mixture of both. I have groupings of stuff that I can go to, but I’ll play around depending on the vibe. I’m a pretty bad DJ when it comes to pleasing people. 

What do you really dislike regarding music?
You know what? I think there’s always something good in every style. I think in most genres you can find something that’s good. There’s so much music out there. The music I don’t like is this formulaic or there’s not a lot of creativity put into it.  

I don’t feel comfortable saying, “this sucks,” as a statement. Someone likes it and they like it for a reason. Just because I don’t, it doesn’t mean it’s true. 

Of the musical artists that are out there today, who do you feel that people should know about that maybe they don’t?
I was listening to Labi Siffre, Kate Bush, and Little Simz this morning, that is a cross-section of where my head is at, which is a pretty weird combination of music. Kate Bush, by the way, is blowing my mind at the moment. 

Which record?
Aerial. There’s a song called Nocturn that really blew my mind this morning because I had never really heard it before and I was really blown away by it. Little Simz, she’s pretty amazing from London. 

What do you do when you’re not listening to music and making people look fabulous?
Hang out with my son. I have a son. He’s 14, and he’s incredible.

What is it that you learn from your son?
One of the things that’s really amazing about my son is that he’s an artist, and he’s a filmmaker. He doesn’t question it at all. He doesn’t question his role as an artist. And he’s constantly thinking about how he can express himself, and there’s no discomfort or doubt there that he should be doing it. I find that incredibly inspiring in him. At his age, he doesn’t have this artistic self-doubt. He has social self-doubt obviously, every 14-year-old does, but artistically, he has none. It’s like he’s just very present in himself. So, he’s an inspiring kid to be around.

Is that something you wish you had more of?
Yeah, I think age is hard. When you get older, you’re talking about ageism. But you’ve had more knocks and you’ve had more reason to doubt, and you’ve had more societal responsibilities, and things become economic. You have time issues, and there are lots of things bombarding you. You have to make more sacrifices as you get older. And I think the youth at that age don’t have those responsibilities, so they don’t live in that space. They live in a very much, “This is how I’m going to do it” space rather than “This is how I might not do it, or this is how I shouldn’t do it. This is why I can’t do it.” 

I really respect that about him. I love hanging out with him. He’s my favorite person to hang out with. He’s a very sensitive person too. He’s very respectful and sensitive to other people. He’s a big inspiration to be around.

What’s your ambition for the next 10 years?
Be happy.

Good ambition. What are the three non-negotiables in your life?
Oh, I don’t know. It’s a tough question because I see most things as negotiable, it gives me the ability to change and learn. 

Being respectful is non-negotiable. Telling the truth is non-negotiable. Just trying to be a decent human being, as long as you’re trying in your life to be a decent human. 

Connect with Alex:
Todd Snyder

Main image from Todd Snyder.

See medical disclaimer below. ↓


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.


David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.


Sign up for AGEIST today
We will never sell or give your email to others. Get special info on Diet, Exercise, Sleep and Longevity.

Recommended Articles