The Alternative Apparel and Juice Served Here Founder Wants to Start a Unisex Product Revolution
Greg Alterman wants to take over your home, starting with your closet and medicine cabinet.
When you first hear Greg Alterman's plans to infiltrate every aspect of people's lives with his new m/f people brand — from skin care and shower products to coffee and clothes — it sounds a bit sci-fi, dystopian.
That is, until you remember that some tech companies are essentially doing the same thing already, and honestly, is there anything more satisfying than seeing all of your electronics, sleek and streamlined, lined up next to one another with tiny Apple logos aglow?
For Alterman, founder of the popular T-shirt and loungewear label-with-a-soul Alternative Apparel and L.A.-based Juice Served Here (which has Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop stamp of approval), m/f people is designed to provide the same kind of simplified, uniformlike, Marie Kondo-esque satisfaction.
"Something important to the brand DNA is this minimal quality," said Alterman of the company, which is launching next week with a collection of apparel and skin care before branching into more categories including home goods and food. "That's the aesthetic that I’m trying to create in one’s home, and I think that’s something that really resonates with all of the products because they all match."
After recovering from a life-altering health scare, the self-described "serial entrepreneur" became keenly aware of the multitude of brands he interacted with on a daily basis, all of which added unnecessary chaos and clutter (both physical and mental) to his home. M/f people solves that problem. "For the most part, the brand is there to help create Zen."
M/f people also aims to tap into the millennial generation obsessed with unfussy aesthetics, and the kicker is that all the products are unisex. No more floral scents "for her" or bright red, manly bottles "for him." Rather, everything is created equal for the different sexes (and ages, religions and races, according to the brand's Instagram).
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Alterman ahead of the June 23 release of m/f people to chat about the incredible journey that led to the birth of the idea, as well as why unisex labels are the way of the future.
How did the idea for the m/f people come about?
Well, I’ve been in the apparel business for 30 years. I started my first company out of the trunk of my car in college, basically, selling T-shirts. That company became Alternative Apparel.
In 2013, I stepped away and started a cold-pressed juice company in Los Angeles called Juice Served Here. I started that with a friend of mine; we were co-founders together, and we took a fashionable approach to juice in the city with 12 retail outlets. We have a wholesale business as well.
About 18 months ago, after that had been built up, I was at home one morning, and I was getting ready to take my kids to school, which is something I do daily, but I had a terrible headache, so I asked my wife if she could take the kids to school. She was kind of like, “Yeah, whatever,” and while she was gone, I walked downstairs and I dialed 911 because I was having a brain hemorrhage. Not to get too sidetracked, but I basically had a life-altering event.
As I’m recovering from this experience — which is supposed to be death, really — I spent a lot of time at home. I ended up sort or horizontal for about six months on a daily basis. My big thing would be getting out of the house for lunch every day. So I started taking note of what my daily habits are and what brands I was coming into contact with on a daily basis.
As I continued to think about that as I was recovering, I noticed a pattern, that I touch all these brands, and I have a relationship with all of these brands because I’ve been using these products for years and years — the deodorants, shampoos, creams, conditioners, whatever — all the products that I use, that my wife uses, and I was noticing a disconnect. We each use different products. I started researching a little more and thinking to myself: Shampoo is shampoo, face lotion is face lotion. She has hers that smell like gardenia, and I have mine that smell a little muskier and manly, and this is ludicrous. We live in a beautiful home with a spalike setting, and I’m looking at red shampoo bottles and purple and orange and blue and green, and it just looks like a clusterf—, basically.
So I started buying these white bottles, and I started emptying products into these white containers. And then I started having a problem: Well, what did I put in what? They all started looking the same.
At that point, that was my “aha” moment. Apparel and beauty are so tightly connected. Why not come out with a brand that is sort of a unisex — m/f, male, female — a unisex approach to fashion and beauty that would help you get out of the house every day. That is the premise of the brand. With the apparel history, I said I’m going to attack initially the bathroom and the closet. The closet being your basic essentials, your T-shirts, your sweatshirts, your sweatpants, your socks and underwear, that sort of thing. And I’m going to define a space that I think exists out there.
What makes the products unisex? Is it just a greater size range, or is it in the cut?
I was thinking about the sweatshirt that [my wife and I] both are dying to wear — it’s a unisex product. I have general men’s products, they have this general fit. The boyfriend tee has been very popular, and I don’t want to say that I created that trend, but I was definitely a pioneer and at the forefront of that trend of athleisure with Alternative Apparel. We were basically the first unisex sweatshirt and T-shirt out there that was defining that as that.
Of the products that I’ve sold for 30 years, the very best-sellers are the unisex items. Of course, I have gender-specific items in m/f, but the majority of the offerings in apparel and skin care is unisex — all of skin care is unisex.
I just want to make luxurious, high-quality products for both skin care and hygiene and name it in a way that’s relevant today with this unisex trend that’s sort of happening. I actually think it’s not a trend, I think it’s here to stay. I think you’re finding even the top clothing companies in the world are leaning toward a unisex design.
Of course, where we are today with this political gender movement happening with shows like Transparent — it’s a very relevant moment.
Is there a reason the skin care products are referred to as "hygiene" instead of "beauty"?
We’re calling it skin care and hygiene because it’s mostly creams and lotions and not a lot of anti-aging yet, but I think we’ll get to those categories. I see us expanding into a lot of categories. I see kitchen and glassware, cutlery, all different types of anti-aging products, cosmetics, just things you touch on the way out of the house.
What was the most difficult part of the brand to develop?
The skin care, for me, was the most interesting part of it. Finding a neutral fragrance for the entire line that was super subtle was difficult — we chose kumquat, which is the smell across the entire line, with the exception of the tea-tree shaving cream. I’ve just got a lot of items that are interesting [and] unique. We’re not going to come out of the gate and compete with Crest toothpaste. But our charcoal toothpaste is a bit different. Our approach to a lot of generic items is atypical.
The approach that we’re taking is naturally derived products, minimal ingredients, no fillers, so it’s super high-quality, medicinal-grade skin care, but it’s an attainable price point. All the products are between $14 and $50 for any item.
Where will your products be sold?
We are only doing direct-to-consumer. I’ve worked with retailers for 30 years, and I know that game. I didn’t want any diversion. I wanted to service the customer directly, 100 percent. I want to be able to know my customers and talk to them directly. I didn’t want retailers to tell my story for me because I think something gets lost in translation. So I wanted to own it. And part of our offer is we do have replenishment programs, there is a component to the business.
In terms of apparel, are you going to stick to loungewear for now? Things that you’d wear around the house? Or are you venturing into more fashion-forward workwear?
The quality of what we’re doing is so much better than anything I’ve ever done in my life. I’m able to put a lot of love into the garments I’m doing right now. Basic tees are $40 to $44, and we have items that are up to $125 for jackets and stuff.