Kim Alexander could be the kind of woman you’d love to hate. She’s drop-dead gorgeous and seems to have it all. A home in University Place that seamlessly blends modern, retro and antique with comfortable and chic; a loving family that includes her artist husband, daughter, poodle, and two cute cats and the creative wherewithal that has seen her through one successful glamorous career and into another.
But it’s hard not to like Alexander. Because she’s earned all that she has through work and more than her share of hard knocks. She’s stumbled through tough times and persevered with healthy doses of love and laughter.
And she really is talented.
She sits in her workroom, sketching effortlessly. The deft placement of lines leaps to life as a woman’s body, draped in a silky garment. She’s sketching her next “Halter Hotties” top. A 1960s floral silk scarf lies in front of her. She sees new life in the garment. To her, its pattern and style recall a mood, an era, a certain muse. Is it a Bond girl? Is it Barbara Eden from “I Dream of Jeannie?” Is it a silver-screen legend like Marlene Dietrich or Marilyn Monroe?
Alexander breathes life into the scarf, playing a past era against a present one, adding silk charmeuse backing, a wide sash and a vintage button or two. Another halter top is born. And her year-old business is growing fast.
Rebecca Baldwin, proprietor of the Dame Lola boutique that has morphed from a Tacoma brick-and-mortar mainstay into a popular trunk-show shopping experience, explains the appeal of Alexander’s tops, and why they made the cut into Dame Lola’s next sales event.
“Kim Alexander’s gorgeous halter tops are a dream come true! They are a yummy slice of color to add spice to your denim collection or a perfect pick-me-up for that suit you have worn a thousand times,” Baldwin said.
The garment Alexander completes will hang along with the others on the two horizontal rods that cover a wall in her home studio, awaiting sale either at a trunk show, through her website or at one of the boutiques that carry her line. Her halters can be found in boutiques in Maui, Seattle and in Park City, Utah, home of the popular Sundance film festival. Her tops will be featured in more boutiques soon, she said.
How the Business was Born
Before she began spending her days hunched over her tables sketching halters and creating them, Alexander drafted drawings of luxury yachts and ran her fingers through opulent fabrics that would finish their interiors. As an interior designer for these yachts, she worked on projects of exclusivity and luxury. She speaks of her first project with a gleam in her eye and a giggle in her voice.
“I designed tassels made from silk, freshwater pearls and gold beads and specified real silver and gold tiles for a pool,” she said. Her projects were featured in publications like “The Megayachts USA,” “Showboats International” and “Yachts International.”
But Alexander’s luxury yacht heyday waned with the economy right about the same time her mother’s health failed. As ALS disease slowly took away her mother’s life, Alexander stepped in to care for her and recognized the ending of her yacht design business. After her mother’s death, she began thinking about her own life. She realized she desired a new career — something creative that would allow her to produce something.
“At about that point, Jaymz (Kim’s husband) suggested a road trip, a way to get away and also to see where he came from,” Alexander said.
On a whim, Alexander whipped up a garment for her 11-year-old daughter. The two searched through Alexander’s scarf collection and in the lavender-scented sewing room and the Halter Hottie prototype was born.
“My daughter was getting all these compliments on Venice Beach and in Santa Monica, and I just thought … Hey, maybe this is what I should do!” More mother-daughter bonding time came through retail therapy, as the two collected more scarves for the project, with an unexpected boon to come after one of their scarf-hunting expeditions.
“One day we came home from an estate sale, our arms loaded with scarves, and Jaymz called out, ‘Hey, there are my halter hotties!’ — and the name was born,” Alexander said.
The process of creating the garments was — and still is — therapeutic for Alexander, soothing her with memories built up over years of sewing side-by-side with her mother. “My mom loved lavender. When we moved mom’s sewing room to my sewing room, it smelled just like Mom.”
Alexander is not one to dwell on past sorrows. She moves resolutely ahead, working up new collections and creating fun and flirty pieces just like the one coming to life at her hands as she talks.
She dreams aloud about the ideal wearer of this new piece of art, and muses, “I’m just hoping that this piece finds a woman who is one-of-a kind, sure of herself, ready for a little timeless glamour; ready for a little fun.”
She could be describing herself. But Alexander laughs that suggestion off.
“No, it’s not about me,” she said. “It’s about every one of us.”
Jessica Corey-Butler writes from her 1960s-era Tacoma home, yearning to be a “Bewitched” alter-ego Halter Hotties wearer. She recognizes, however, that her lifestyle as a freelance writer and DIY repairwoman lends itself more to sweats and hoodies.
On the Web
Learn more about Halter Hotties at halterhotties.com. Kim Alexander can transform your vintage scarf into a one-of-a-kind halter. She also has plenty of halters ready to order on her website.