Behind the Collection with Alexis Quintero
For collectors, a new addition is never just a mere item. There’s purpose in the pursuit and the item serves as a physical representation of that search. Everything in Alexis Quintero’s wardrobe has a story and it’s just as important as the piece itself. Over time, the model, creator, and consultant has amassed a cool collection of vintage designer pieces around that same narrative. It is the story, after all, that connects us. This served as the starting point for a recent project with Nike, where she had the opportunity to reinterpret four signature silhouettes in a way that speaks to who she is and where she’s from. Her personal wardrobe combines the best of high-end and streetwear labels with a signature style comprised of bright colors and unique silhouettes. We recently spoke with Alexis to find out the story behind some of her favorite pieces, the importance of patience, and how she remains true to her individuality.
Photography by Rashaun Richardson.
How did you start collecting?
In high school, I would just go to thrift shops and buy little things like old Levi’s and gold bracelets. From there, I started to visit flea markets and vintage stores. Once I started thrifting and getting fast-fashion, I realized I could be saving that money to actually buy the pieces I really wanted. I was also doing a lot of research on runways and designers around that time. I would look up their old runways and study them. I started [by buying] used Japanese designers, then got my first pair of vintage tabi’s in 2015. I started to really search and build my collection after that.
You’ve also mentioned that you began your collection in 2015 with the purchase of a vintage Chanel bag; what did that moment represent for you?
Around this time I worked the overnight shift at a hotel and would go straight to school from there, then after school go home and sleep to do it again. I did that for about two years then I got an internship with a used designer online shop. I started just opening boxes and cases of returns, but would watch how they authenticated items and I got to feel so many bags and shoes. One day I was walking in the office and saw a Chanel bag sitting on top of a pile. It was the perfect size with a silk-like material and pink CC button closure. I scanned it in thinking it was too expensive, but worth a try. When I did, I saw it was a pretty good price but obviously not in my intern budget. I told my manager I loved it and she let me keep it at my desk until I was ready to buy it. Months later I saved up a couple hundred and was ready to purchase. I let my manager know and she gave me an extra discount and I got my bag! I left so happy that day. I felt all my hard work and tears were worth that moment. I felt I could do anything and achieve anything I wanted if I kept working hard.
Your interest in designer apparel has led you to create a platform, Fruta de Dulce, to share your appreciation with others. Walk us through how you chose the name and what draws you toward certain pieces.
Fruta de Dulce means sweet fruit in Spanish. I chose the name because it reminds me of brightness, boldness, and sweetness, which is everything a woman represents to me. I try and tell that story with the items chosen: bright Pleats Please by Issey Miyake, flowy Comme des Garçons pieces and bold and structured pieces. It is also a lot of how I feel inside and being inspired by the colors I was around growing up and looking to strong women I had in my life. It is my culture mixed in with everything that I love.
How do you edit your personal collection?
I feel very satisfied with my collection now. One piece turned into many and I feel I curated it all. It’s very rewarding. I usually sell the things that don't suit me or make me happy anymore & donate a lot of shoes and clothes frequently.
How do you maintain authenticity in your style, especially with so much choice available to us right now?
As I got older I learned to just wear what makes me happy and dress based on how I feel. It took me a while to find my groove and what worked for me and dressing how I really wanted. I mean, that’s how we usually are when we're kids and then something happens where we have a filter for what we wear and do. Especially now with social media, things start to look the same. I'm more firm now in the things I like and I know how to filter out what I want and not what anyone else wants—if that makes sense. I wake up and dress for me without anything else in mind. Some days I can be totally relaxed in sweats and sneakers; other [times] I'll be in all Comme des Garçons. It’s just really how I feel that day. I also like to mix and match—my key is one bold piece with casual things.
It is often said that patience is a virtue and that certainly holds true for collectors. Is there a piece in your personal collection that was particularly hard to track down?
I really wanted this pair of Helmut Lang heels from Spring 2003. Around the time I was looking for them, Helmut Lang was selling for an enormous amount, but I came across a seller who listed them for a low price because I don't think she knew what she had. It helps to know what you’re looking for and know it'll all come at the right time and price. I think I have a story for every one of my items, especially shoes, and I love to wear the pieces and know the story behind them.
Has the ability to wait for what you want carried over into other areas of your life?
I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Some things take time and I've learned that what's for me will fall into place and to try and have patience and take things day by day.
You have an affinity for Japanese designers like Issey Miyake, Jun Takahashi, Chitose Abe, and Rei Kawakubo. What inspires you about their work?
I admire them so much because their work is like art. It is art. I love how they take each season and make something so beautiful on the runways and with the pieces. I respect them because you can study their work—the designs and pieces [from each] season—and learn something different each time. They never fail to inspire me to keep going outside of my comfort zone.
What designer excites you the most at the moment?
Jacquemus. He embodies femininty, boldness, and vibrancy in his collections. I would love to have a couple of his pieces to mix into my collection. I'm also really obsessed with everything Luke and Lucie Meier are doing at Jil Sander right now.
What are your interests outside of fashion? In the past, I’ve seen you post about ceramics, cooking, and skincare products you use. Are those hobbies for you?
I absolutely love those things! I guess you can say they're hobbies. They're things that make me happy and feel fulfilled in day to day life. I'm trying to set a goal to do one activity a week that’s different and helps me stay active and creative. I want to re-learn violin, do ballet again, start painting, and do ceramics.
Walk us through a day in your LA. Where do you like to eat, shop, or hang out?
I feel like when you live in LA you don't do many LA things. I'm a real homebody—I'm only out for work or for events. I mostly cook at home and I love to play music and enjoy my time home when I can.
Some LA things I love to do are eating at Jon and Vinny's (spicy fusilli is the best pasta I've ever had), the Getty never gets old to me, and flea markets. I also enjoy grocery shopping at Trader Joes, going on walks with my dog and spending time with family and friends who always inspire me.
Our idea of “home” tends to form a foundation for us that we grow upon. What impact has LA had on you in terms of what you wear or what you hope to do in the future?
I grew up in East LA and I feel that made me who I am today. It was admiring to see hard-working families, fruit and elotes at every corner, playing and dancing outside. It's a different set of morals you grow up on. A value to work hard for everything you have. I think this inspires me in fashion and art, it brings more passion and meaning to it. I think that’s why I'm drawn to bright colors or pops of color, sneakers, comfortability, sustainability and recycling used vintage items.
I also want to get your thoughts on the tension we sometimes feel with social media. While it has certainly helped to cultivate new communities and given access to industries that once felt very exclusive, it can also lead to varying levels of comparison or lack of focus on the things that matter the most in life. Personally, how do you manage that balance?
Social media is a great tool for certain industries, but it does cause a lot of stress in different ways: with wanting more, not being satisfied, feeling stuck, etc. It'll all come with time and try to let things fall into place and don't stress them being on the app. I know it’s easier said than done—trust me, I need to take my own advice sometimes. Remember, material things aren't everything. At the end of the day are you ok with yourself? To do things that make you happy and spend time disconnected. You, happiness, health, family and love all come first.
You recently released a collab with Nike; what else do you hope to accomplish?
I would love to get a chance to get another collection with Nike where I can make new pieces and produce my leather gloves. I just want to continue to grow and surpass my goals. Two years ago I would never think I would be where I am now—two years from today I want to look back and say the same.
What items are you still searching for?
I’ve always wanted the Céline red painted toenail heels. I just wish they came in other skin tones. I also really want a vintage painted tabi boot. I have this thing with collecting really interesting heels.