Volume 76, Number 23 | October 25 - 31, 2006

The Lower East Side
Traditions and transitions

Villager photo by Clayton Patterson

Designer Ace Boon Kunle, right, and Dice, a sales person, at Alife Rivington Club.

Pioneering hip boutique has designs on the world

By Lori Haught

Now the proud proprietor of stores in London, Paris, Vancouver and Japan, Alife started out as just another small shop on the Lower East Side.

Alife was started in 1999 on Orchard St. by four partners, two of whom — Rob Christofaro and Arnaud Dellecolle — still run the business.

“Alife has inspired all sorts of stuff,” said Ace Boon Kunle, designer of IRAK NY clothing, which is sold in Alife stores. IRAK has also collaborated with ALife on many separate occasions.

Kunle said that the history of Alife is much the same as the history of the Lower East Side community where it was founded and blossomed.

They began a second shop, the Alife Rivington Club — an upscale sneaker club, at 158 Rivington St. — in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, and moved the general store — which sells clothes, shoes and other merchandise — right next door in 2004 when their old building on Orchard St. was torn down to make room for a hotel.

Alife revolutionized how merchants used spaces to market various products. Starting out small, in their old Orchard St. location, they were the first art gallery/retail outlet on the Lower East Side, according to Kunle.

They featured many well-known artists early in their careers, as well as many well-known designers. Ryan McGuiness, Steve Powers, Todd James and Carlucci were all featured at Alife.

A 12-foot-by-50-foot graffiti wall at Alife — featuring over 600 tags by famous New York City graffiti artists — turned into a major exhibit.

“It was the only gallery for street art,” Kunle said.

Aside from IRAK NY, Married to the Mob, or MOB, also sells merchandise through Alife. New Era caps and Red Tops shoes and hats have also collaborated with Alife on many projects. Alife footwear has collaborated with Reebok and Adidas and is looking to collaborate with Nike in the future.

Alife prides itself on giving back to the community through its exhibitions and also its concerts, known as ALife Sessions.

The first was held in the backyard of the Rivington Club and featured John Mayer and Just Blaze. Sponsored by Levis, Crash and Fender, the session was held in conjunction with Fashion Week.

Alife has also been instrumental in the publication of books, one of which, “All Most Famous,” featured hip-hop impresario Damon Dash and other local celebrities.

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