Ernest Alexander on denim and backpacks
Credit: Mireya Acierto / Getty Images

There's nothing better than a great-fitting pair of jeans, but even perfectly tailored denim can look bad if details haven't been taken into account. That's why Ernest Alexander is a wash buff.

As a fan of darker washes, the designer is big on selvage, but he hedges his bets by always having two pairs at the ready. He says he always has jeans that offer a "darker wash, lower rise, [are] tighter around the waist and thighs" to wear with a pair of chestnut wingtips and a blazer. He doesn't wash them. Instead, Alexander lightly dots them with cold water then air-dries them to keep the finish. His second pair is a bit more worn in and personalized with a slight wash and scars and marks.

"I have this great pair of A.P.C [denims]. I've had for four years that have started to whisker and honeycomb behind the knees really nicely," he says. "They start to become a part of you."

Given his 6-foot-4 height and challenging inseam, Alexander, whose designs are carried in his SoHo shop in New York but also at Club Monaco and Nordstrom, prefers a lower rise in the waist. As for cuffing? "It works if it's skinny," he says. "Personally, I like them clean and neat." Also, look for the details: One of Alexander's favorite pairs is a five-pocket from Kasil Workshop in L.A. that has a little pocket behind a pocket to accommodate a card case or iPhone. As for the perfect work bag, Alexander, who started his career designing functional yet stylish hold-alls, is a big proponent of the tote. For spring, he created several oversize totes with closures on top and a handy shoulder strap. "There's something great about being able to chuck all your stuff into one compartment fast," he says. "Totes are great utility pieces, but they have to have storage pockets."

Like his jeans, his bags are casual but considered.