Last year, Alife relaunched with an unexpected Crocs collaboration.
Alife approached Crocs before the footwear brand reentered the fashion conversation via a tie-in with Balenciaga on an imaginative, platform pair that retails for $850. But since then, newer streetwear brands including Pleasures and Chinatown Market have released their own co-branded Crocs.
“That’s the last thing we wanted to happen,” said Treis Hill, Alife’s general manager, when asked about these collaborations. “One thing that Alife consistently tries to ensure, which might be to our detriment, is that we aren’t trying to follow what people do. No one was thinking about Crocs until we did it, so for us let’s move on to something else and focus on a new message.”
That new message is Black History Month, and Alife has partnered with the Brooklyn Museum and Faith Ringgold, a Harlem-born artist whose work was featured in the “Soul of a Nation” exhibit at the museum. Ringgold is known for her quilts, but also practices painting, sculpting and performance art.
“Alife is centered around art and our objective is to push art and perpetuate that through our apparel, but this is the first time we’ve done something during Black History Month,” said Hill. “This was an important message for us to communicate. I look at the kids in the culture today and they skim things or watch a five-minute video on YouTube. It’s important for us to do our job and communicate history in hopes that some kids will go and dig deeper.”
The collection draws from a political poster Ringgold created called “The United States of Attica (1971-1972),” which references the 1971 riots at the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York when inmates gained control of the prison and asked for better living conditions. The tragedy ended with 43 people, including prisoners, guards and civilians, being killed. Ringgold’s poster features a map of the U.S. that details different genocides and murders that have taken place in American history. The color scheme pulls from Marcus Garvey’s Black Nationalist Flag.
The Alife capsule, which is available now at the Brooklyn Museum, displays this poster on a tote bag, T-shirt and a sweatshirt.
“Faith Ringgold is not someone who is championed and talked about in streetwear,” said Hill. “But her art is important and she’s helped document black history in such an impactful way. This also connects with today and what happened a couple of weeks ago at the MDC in Brooklyn.” He was referencing the incident when inmates at the facility went for days without heat or hot water despite the frigid temperatures outside.
Hill said since relaunching Alife, sales have been up and the team has grown. The team is trying to offer a great environment at retail and online.
“The retail experience is still important as a brand, but a lot of the transactions are happening online,” said Hill. “It’s our job to provide a great experience on both ends.”