Alexander Aquino is the CEO and President of Barnabas Clothing, a social business based in Pasadena. It's a company with a Disney family backing (Jake Short) and an affiliate hospice that it supports in Western Kenya to help provide community care to those with HIV/AIDS.
Find out more about how and why Aquino started his business -- and what keeps him going every day.
Four Questions with Alexander Aquino
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
I wanted our business model to be a non-traditional for-profit type of company. I didn't want to just add to the competitive clothing market, but to be intentional with its creation. Around the same time I was thinking through the idea of Barnabas, my good friend Juli McGowan was also in the process of formulating what her purpose out in Kenya would be as well. We talked about our hopes in our own ventures and it lit a light bulb in me of what the brand could give back to. After many discussions and confirmations, Barnabas' philanthropy efforts would be to help those who are impacted and affected with HIV/AIDS in a country that has been ravaged by this disease.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
I have always wanted to create my own clothing company since I was a kid. I have always been inspired by the big brands of my day, Side Out Sportswear, Mossimo, Stussy, etc... My background is marketing and business development, but I also have experience as a youth director working with students. As a youth director, I saw what brands my students would wear, some good and some not-so good. Students would be wearing these brands communicating their messages and it is then that I knew I wanted to create a brand with a solid positive message behind it. Nothing in your face, but a brand that would be known for calling people to a higher standard.
Before being a full-time youth director, I was the Co-Founder and President of Gina Alexander, Inc. Gina Alexander is my cousin and a handbag designer, so working in this industry wasn't too far of a jump from accessories and into the apparel industry. I believe the experiences and the network of people met through this business has only help Barnabas' growth.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
I receive my inspiration from many avenues, media, print, other designers, fashion, architecture and even nature. My style and vision for Barnabas is non-conforming to one genre. I want it to be illusive and applicable to every genre out there. This is why Barnabas isn't necessarily a specific genre brand, like a skate or surf brand, but more of a lifestyle brand.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
Great question. I find that I have to be intentional about being creative. Running a start-up company requires that I wear many hats and the creative hat sometimes gets neglected in growing this company. One of my rituals is to always have something with me to sketch an idea down or my iphone to photograph a place/idea. It helps me categorize my ideas which ultimately formulate seasons and trends for Barnabas.