Alfie

My friend Alfie has a brilliant smile and massive dark eyes that flutter when he's excited, which is often. He has a lot to be excited about; the men's grooming line that he and a friend launched less than two years ago has absolutely blown up. It's been featured in dozens of publications, including GQ, Details, Esquire, Playboy, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. Not exactly small time stuff.

It has been such a joy to witness his success, which is hard-earned. Alfie hasn't slowed down once in the time that I've known him. Before the new company took off, he was juggling three jobs: designing for the fledgeling startup, working at a graphic design studio downtown, and waiting tables on weekends at a Mexican restaurant in Silver Lake. Bit by bit, as the grooming line garnered bigger and better press and demand for the products grew, he was able to lighten his workload under others and focus more on his own business. Exhausting trade shows in Las Vegas and New York, long nights assembling orders, DIY-ing merchandise displays, and drafting copy - Alfie embodies that saying The dream is free; the hustle is sold separately. Eventually he was able to quit the other two jobs, and now he devotes himself full time to the new biz.

Something really cool about him: back when he first started out in graphic design, he would find work by redoing menus, unsolicited. He'd just quietly nick one, take it home, and return it a few days later alongside an updated, improved version to show the restaurant owner. If the owner liked what he saw enough to hire Alfie, great; if not, it was still good design practice under his belt.

Something else that impresses me: despite how lucrative the grooming line has become, Alfie and his partner outsource as little work as possible, researching everything from SEO to legal issues for the website. Lawyers and coders are expensive, so they do as much as they can on their own. Unfortunately but perhaps unsurprisingly, the grooming line's design has already been imitated by another company, and there have been a few other questionable uses of the shop's images. But rather than react rashly, Alfie and his partner have responded to these infringements calmly and patiently. I myself have felt the helplessness and frustration of being copied, and I have great respect for the class with which they've handled such situations.

Meanwhile, throughout all of this, Alfie remains a loving boyfriend, a great friend, the consummate party host, and my favorite lunch + shopping date. We just made plans to devastate our wallets at the upcoming Unique LA show. You're in charge of making sure I don't spend too much, I told him. Oh honey, he wrote back. Have we met?

We have. And I'm very glad of it.