Two-time BGSU alumnus debuting luxury streetwear brand at New York Fashion Week
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Alaa El-Madhoun ‘21, ‘23 will showcase eight pieces from his Exit 85 collection at the iconic fashion industry event.
By Laren Kowalczyk ‘07
Two-time Bowling Green State University alumnus Alaa El-Madhoun, ‘21, ‘23 launched his luxury urban streetwear brand from his college apartment in 2021 — the culmination of years of creative ventures and unrelenting pursuit to follow in the footsteps of his idol, the late Virgil Abloh.
Since then, El-Madhoun has been building his brand, Exit 85, which he will debut Sept. 9 at New York Fashion Week as the first BGSU alumnus to exhibit at one of the fashion industry’s most iconic events.
“I’ve spent a lot of time putting my collection together for this show, and I cannot wait to see how being a part of New York Fashion Week elevates my brand,” El-Madhoun said. “BGSU has played such an integral role in my fashion journey and in developing my company, and I’m thrilled to represent the University on the national stage.”
When El-Madhoun arrived at BGSU in 2018, he began exploring his artistic and entrepreneurial abilities. His first business venture was airbrushing custom designs onto shoes, which he did from his residence hall.
Following that, El-Madhoun designed Greek Life apparel with a sewing and embroidery machine he purchased with the money he earned from airbrushing shoes.
Apartment No. 85
His designs then began evolving into what eventually became Exit 85. The name comes from apartment No. 85 on Eighth Street in Bowling Green, Ohio, where El-Madhoun started his brand.
“BGSU professors taught us the fundamentals of design and garment construction, which was really beneficial in starting my brand. They helped me so much,” he said.
The University’s fashion merchandising and product development program ranks among the nation’s top programs.
Dr. Mariana Mitova, a teaching professor in the fashion program, has been a mentor to El-Madhoun for the last several years, beginning when he was an undergraduate student and continuing through his journey to earn a master’s degree in business administration.
“Alaa has always had a very strong creative sense and unique interpretation of his vision,” Mitova said. “The fashion industry is always looking for the next big creative mind. He has great potential to make it in this industry. Alaa is also very kind, genuine and is a high-integrity kind of person. Those strong, personal qualities are an asset in fashion.”
Fashion week debut
El-Madhoun was chosen from hundreds of applicants worldwide as Flying Solo’s Ones to Watch. The fashion collective represents new, independent designers and promotes a culture of collaboration in an industry known for being unforgiving.
The invitation-only show, being held in the heart of the fashion district in New York City, is attended by fashion executives in search of the next industry disrupter and covered by major publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Women’s Wear Daily, Fashion Week Online, Marie Clarie and others.
El-Madhoun is presenting eight runway looks during the show.
The Exit 85 collection includes timeless leather jackets, modern cargo pants, T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, a nod to breakout designer Abloh, who first brought luxury streetwear to the mainstream.
In March, Grammy-nominated rapper Smino wore a not-yet-released Exit 85 leather jacket on stage at his Detroit concert. After concert photos began circulating online, Outlander, a street fashion magazine based in London, and a representative from Flying Solo reached out to El-Madhoun.
“Smino wearing my jacket brought my brand a whole new audience,” El-Madhoun said. “I can only imagine what Fashion Week is going to bring.”
In addition to what he learned in the BGSU fashion merchandising and product development program, El-Madhoun said he consistently relies on knowledge from the nationally-ranked Master of Business Administration program in the Allen W. and Carol M. Schmidthorst College of Business. Understanding business laws and marketing have been crucial, he said.
“Today, one of the biggest determinants of a successful business is marketing,” El-Madhoun said. “I try to take everything I learned in those classes and incorporate it into my business.”
Updated: 09/05/2023 02:55PM