By Vanessa Packer
Photography by Sasha Israel
“WE DON’T HAVE A TAGLINE FOR THE BRAND, BUT IF WE DID IT’S THAT DETAILS CAN BE SO EASY”, Yuvi Alpert explains over a freshly brewed pot of Japanese Sencha tea in his downtown studio. He is talking about Men in Cities, the online marketplace he launched a year ago that offers men’s accessories in capsule collections released each month. Everything on the site is $40, but “it’s not a gimmick, what it comes down to is that we want men to focus on design rather than price so you’re always picking your favorite item,” asserts Alpert. The California-born, Tel Aviv-raised New Yorker aims to “inspire demand” with everyday items that are timeless and smart. “You don’t need to be Keith Richards to look interesting and creative,” Alpert quips as he sits behind the new collection, which includes a trio of black socks stitched with titles from three Johnny Cash songs, part of the Black and Grey collection. Off duty, you can find Alpert honing in on his headstand in a Yoga Vida meditation class or exploring the city with his bicycle gang The Cyclones. With Alpert, it doesn’t take long to discover that style always plays an important role–whether it’s in or out of the studio.
Tell me about Men in Cities?
It started from a few things. One is from a purely selfish place, that I want to be able to create whatever I want and put it out there. I figured, “Why don’t I not limit myself in terms of what I can design.” I couldn’t go to one of the stores we work with and be like, “I have a weird idea for designing a pen or a pocket square.” It won’t work with their merchandising. Two, I really felt that it was hard to find good mens accessories, and I wanted to create an experience that simplified shopping for them. We focus on curating and discovering and simplify it by making all prices the same price. It’s $40 and it’s not because everything costs us the same, it’s not a gimmick, what it comes down to is that we want men to focus on design rather then price. So when you go on my website, you are just focusing on design and always picking your favorite item. We release a new collection on the first of every month with nine new items. We don’t want more then five minutes of your time, we just want you to come back check out the new items. It’s not that the other stuff is old and irrelevant, we release a new collection to tell a story, they are all little stories. If you see something interesting you try it out and if you don’t like it send it back. You’ll buy something you never knew you wanted. We are more focused on inspiring demand. We’re a lifestyle brand, we don’t talk about fashion necessarily, we want to create a compelling voice. It’s a passion for details, it just happens to be that we are doing mens accessories but even if we were doing food or whatever we were making, the branding would be the same, the voice would be the same.
Where do you produce everything to release a new collection every month?
While we do release every month, we still plan everything by season. Right now, the fashion calendar has two big collections a year, so we still build these big collections for fall/winter spring/summer but the way we release it is in different times depending on the story it goes with. We spend a lot of time developing the core good product then we make it in a bunch of different colors. We have the blueprint let’s say for the passport cover that we can then make in an assortment of colors. The ties we make here in New York. They are 2 1/4 inch wide we focus on the cut and then everything is rolled out in different prints and colors.
Is everything made in New York?
It depends. Our pocket squares, ties and bow ties are all made in New York City. Our dress socks are made in LA. We are making some crocheted stuff in Peru. Our wallets are made in China. My pens are made in Minneapolis. It really depends on where we have the production relationships. Some items, like a cashmere beanie, is fun to be direct to the customer because this is something that would be $200 in a store. On Men in Cities site it’s $40. At the end of the day, there are some items we make little to no money on, but we are not a value or bargain brand that’s not what we are trying to create. We are offering exceptional value because it’s designed and produced by us for the consumer. It’s really about product discovery. You don’t need to be Keith Richards to look interesting and creative. Everything is straight forward. It’s called Men in Cities because it’s for real men in cities. The brand is built on a passion for details. It happens to be that we are doing men’s accessories and that’s a way to really differentiate yourself from a crowd. You could work at a firm in New York and everyone wears navy blue suits everyday, and the only way to differentiate yourself is maybe whale socks or a tie clip or warrior gloves. It’s those elements that make the difference. We just want to show men that it’s not so hard to add these little details.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
That’s what is so fun about this projects, because I’m not a traditional fashion guy, I don’t come form that background, I don’t design off the fashion calendar. It’s more everyday inspiration. That’s what is so nice about Men in Cities. When you have to design for a whole season you have to stick with one specific story, but we do capsule collections where we can do limited edition stories and use whatever little inspiration I have to do that.
You were originally working in jewelry, how did you first get into that?
I started as a freshman in college in Miami. I had been living in Tel Aviv before going to college there, and there were a lot of Jewish New Yorkers wearing Jewish stars, and coming from Israel you just didn’t’ see people wearing that. I got an idea for this necklace that I could sell second semester to students. So over winter break I went to downtown LA and found these Armenian jewelers. It was a simple idea, to create an African medallion with a Jewish star and a piece of suede going through it. That was the first piece I ever made, so it started a little finance school project. I was always making things growing up not to sell but just to make. I always felt mens jewelry was hard to find. I wanted everyday mens jewelry and that’s sort of how we started.
Yuvi, the line, who do you design for?
A lot of times when I design, I design for myself. In general right now I’m more interested in making beautiful simple designs that are easy to wear for all men. So, we are not just going after the great stylish guy in New York, Tokyo or Paris, but we really want to reach the guy who has never worn men’s jewelry before, and be something for him to try out. We also think about athletes and making pieces that are durable.
How important is the active guy, because now you are making jump ropes and things like that?
With Men in Cities, a lot of the stuff I’m making are pieces I want for myself. It could be the most random product. I’m always traveling, so I always have the traveler in mind. One of our best selling products was the passport cover, and we purposely designed it to look worn in. The jumprope, that is what I do for exercise. I jump rope everyday, and it’s the best piece of equipment to travel with. We spent a lot of time developing this jumprope, talking to people in the fitness industry, and we actually ended up with a foam grip so that you could have a great grip even when you are sweating but it’s really light so you can take it on a carry on. This is our first direct workout item but we definitely want to make more stuff like that. It’s hard to find a cool jumprope.
What do you have in mind?
Well, the warrior glove is inspired by sport. I go boxing sometimes and I’m not necessarily a boxer but I just like the feeling and like to sweat. The best feeling is when they wrap the tape around before you put on the glove. Any guy could tell you, you just feel like a badass when you put them on. So I wanted to create something that translated that feeling but also make it useful for everyday life. It’s a great accessory because it keeps you warm, it’s made form alpaca and cashmere. We are doing this thing where we guarantee if you wear it, you ail never get jumped, other wise you get your money back. You could walk down the darkest alley with these gloves and nothing is going to happen to you. The great part of online is you get the feedback immediately and you communicate with people directly.
What’s the most popular seller?
The passport cover, in navy especially. It’s a good gift and girls could use it. We designed it to look like you’ve been traveling for 50 years. We call it the global nomad passport cover. We use vegetarian leather with it too, and that offers a softer feel.
What inspired you to do the bicycle helmet?
I ride bicycles all the time. We have a bicycle gang called The Cyclones, so I designed the helmets because it was hard for me to find a good helmet. We are starting to do these specific capsule items that are more health and fitness minded.
Do you work with collaborators?
We want to do them more, because we want to introduce our customer to interesting and creative men in different fields. The collaborations are a win win win. We meet with whomever we want to collaborate with, we create an item together, and a 100% of the money made from the sale of that item will go to the charity of their choice. We want to choose people that aren’t necessarily known, we aren’t interested in doing a collaboration with a celebrity or someone with a big name.
What’s the difference with Yuvi and Men in Cities?
Yuvi is focused on mens jewelry. It’s fine jewelry. They support and help each other out. Mens accessories are tough, and men are intimidated by accessories because they don’t necessarily know how to wear them, so we are not doing a lot of jewelry in Men and Cities, but we are doing some. It’s a way to introduce jewelry to someone who is trying it out and isn’t ready to go into Bergdorf’s and spend $400 on a Yuvi bracelet. On Men in Cities, he could try out a bracelet for $40 and maybe it’s something he likes, we think maybe someday this guy could be a Yuvi customer as well. It gives us access to a new customer who never necessarily experienced men’s jewelry.
What is your food philosophy?
It’s the same with life, it’s all about balance. When I was a kid, I would eat cereal before school, but I would take one that’s bad for you and one that’s good for you and combine them. On the bottom I’d put something like Apple Jacks, and on the top I’d put granola. It’s all about the balance. I like to have a good time, I’ll go out and have a few drinks but I’ll get up to workout or do yoga. I wake up and go to Juice Press. I like the Meal B, I was always a B student so I don’t feel comfortable getting the Meal A juice, haha. I like to have a juice before I eat anything. I’m very strategic, I drink green juice so I don’t have to order a salad. I get all my salad stuff out of the way. In the evening I have another Juice Press, like the Doctor Mangosteen. I love breakfast, usually something with avocado or oatmeal or a sandwich or omelet, but there’s always avocados in there. I’m very hungry in the morning so I like to eat heavy and then taper off so dinner is the lightest. I go to The Smile to-go a lot for lunch. I like to get the quinoa and soup, and I put the quinoa in the soup. I get the chicken there too. When I finish work, I like to do some kind of exercise. For dinner, I eat a lot of salmon, there is a sushi place next to my apartment and I order the ‘Salmon Boy’, it’s salmon sashimi, salmon cut roll everything is salmon and it’s really good. I don’t use soy sauce because I don’t like the taste of it, I use wasabi and ginger. Also, I don’t drink when I eat, water or anything. I drink after my meal.
Do you cook?
I can, but I haven’t really living in New York. The lifestyle and apartment doesn’t really support that. I took a cooking course when I was a senior in high school. I’m good at breakfast. I do California burrito stuff, and omelets. I make a lot of quinoa.
How much did growing up in California and Israel influence your approach to life?
Growing up in California I was introduced to sushi at a very young age, but also my parents are very active. I grew up with two brothers, so we always played basketball. It’s more about being aware of your body how you feel after eating certain foods. It’s just nice to feel good and have energy. I don’t really drink coffee, but I drink a lot of tea. I always felt that if you eat properly you can do whatever you want. I try to eat very healthy, but I like to enjoy and indulge in food. I moved to Tel Aviv when I was almost twelve. My mom would go to the market everyday to get fresh groceries, it’s not like here were people stock up for the week. Fresh bread, fresh cheese and vegetables. You see what you need in the fridge and you walk to the market to buy all locally fresh stuff the day you need it. It’s so nice knowing where your food is coming from, and it makes it more personal. You can put a face to everything.
What are your indulgences?
I’m not a big dessert guy, I like to end my meal with lamb chops. I would love to end every meal with lamb chops. I crave quinoa and healthy food like that. My mom is a great cook and always made healthy meals so a lot of the comfort food is that. I love the way I feel after too.
You mentioned your mom is a really good cook, is there anything she makes that is a comfort?
Every few years in changes. I have a passion for lamb chops now. I love greens, the middle eastern stuff. Tahini is something I could have in every meal. My mom makes it from scratch, it’s amazing. Later on in life I may try to eat less meat, but I do like steak.
Is there anything you don’t eat?
Yes, raisins. I hate raisins, I can’t stand them, especially golden raisins when they are in Moroccan food. I’m also very anti-mayo.
What’s your workout regime like?
I don’t’ go to the gym at all. My workout is more prison style, not that I’ve ever been in prison but if I were I would probably do the same workout. It’s pushups, pull ups, and jumprope. I do boxing for cardio. When I come home from work, before I go to dinner I like to work out. In between pull up and push up sets I’ll jumprope so I’m always sweating. I’ll do that for 20-30 minutes. I wear a vest that adds weight to make it more challenging. Sometimes I hang upside down off the pull up bar, I like the way it feels.
What about The Cyclones?
We started riding in June, my friend Jesse started it. At first, it was just some friends getting together going on a bike ride, and now it’s over 160 people, not at once, each ride is 60-70 people. We have a website and instagram.
How often do you go?
We stopped for the winter, but when it’s warm it’s almost every sunday. Jesse comes up with great trips, we usually meet at the Manhattan side of Williamsburg Bridge. We’ll go to Rockaways or the Cloisters. It’s 60% girls, not just guys, and there’s been quite a few hook ups. We go on these adventures and it’s a great way to see New York. For example, when we went to Rockaways, we stopped at a market and bought a bunch of food, ate on the beach and went swimming. It was a full day. We never go on the same trip, it’s always different.
Do you bike everyday normally?
I do, I have my own bike, but on a day to day I use Citibike. They are great bikes, they’re easy to use, and convenient, I love it. I love not having to worry about a lock and all that. I’ve had my bike stolen in the past so it’s nice to have that option now.
Do you meditate?
I set a goal by 30. I want to be able to do a headstand and meditate for 10 minutes. I don’t bring my cell phone or laptop in my room when I sleep. I want my bedroom to be a peaceful place. I like the Rise app, it has peaceful alarms to wake up to. In the morning, I try not to check emails till I’ve had water and a few minutes of meditation. There’s an app called Meditation Timer. I’m a modern meditator and a beginner, so these apps help. It’s still early but I think just the idea, even if you are not properly meditating, just to clear your head for a few minutes is so important.
You travel a lot, is there anywhere you are looking forward to traveling to?
We just launched Men in Cities in Japan, our second market. We wanted to do it because the Japanese consumer is the most detail oriented consumer, so we are going to learn so much about our brand. We’ve been live for a year, and the goal of this first year was all production, it was my first time making stuff so just to learn and improve on our items and how it does off line. So I started spending time in Japan, my whole life I wanted to go there. That has been a huge inspiration to me, how they treat each other, the details. I’ve had the best pizza of my life in Japan and the best croissant in my life in Japan. They will go to places, see things and do it so much better, because they are so passionate and care so much about what they make. I’ve yet to really explore it so that’s where I want to go and spend more time.
For Yuvi’s Green Apple Click HERE