Follow the Garden State Parkway to Exit 0, and among the Victorian houses known as “painted ladies” that line the streets of historic Cape May, you’ll find The Days. New Jersey’s first private-label, sustainable apparel store is the brainchild of Alexa D’Amico, Fashion Design ’11.
While attending FIT, D’Amico preferred patternmaking to draping, finding it “something tangible for me to grasp.” Graduating post-recession, D’Amico had difficulty securing employment in apparel design. She landed in travel, designing luggage and accessories for Betsey Johnson, Steve Madden, and BCBG Luggage.
Traveling to China biannually opened her eyes to worker exploitation overseas: “I told myself if I started my own line, it’d be based here [in the U.S.], and I’d have firsthand involvement in ethical manufacturing,” D’Amico says. “Sustainability didn’t seem like a corner I could cut.”
Starting a retro swimwear line was D’Amico’s dream, but it took years to save up for samples and manufacturing. After “fleshing out company morals,” D’Amico solicited locals’ gently used beachwear, dismantled it, and used that fabric—along with a cache of sustainable Oeko-Tex organic cotton—to create a new line of core, made-to-last styles, as well as upcycled pieces with a ’70s flair. Bucket hats and shorts made from vintage terrycloth towels are “naturally moisture-wicking, a perfect fit for the oceanside.” Ditto for her popular, upcycled scrunchies.
For three years, she labored creating beachwear and loungewear, fashioning accessories, and creating jewelry from upcycled skateboard decks, which she says, “ties into my ’70s patterns and is very fun and beachy.” Her athleisure line came from a collaboration with Julia Ahrens of the sustainable loungewear line Miakoda.
This March, D’Amico opened her first brick-and-mortar store. “We received a warm welcome; people were receptive to the concept, despite that New Jersey isn’t New York in terms of sustainability,” she says, noting the Big Apple’s high marks for ethical, eco-friendly fashion. Wooden signs posted throughout the store explain the clothing’s varied textile properties, “giving people a visual explanation of what they’re touching.”
She named her business The Days, saying, “I was hesitant to start a brand with an introspective approach, but I thought, ‘Life isn’t forever; let’s make every one of the days count.’”
For now, D’Amico continues designing luggage while growing her business. “Eventually the job will be seven days a week, I hope, because I love the small-town feeling of Cape May. But I’d like to open a couple of shops in warmer climates as well.” —Winnie McCroy