Ali, the author of A Noble Savage, has had a ferocious appetite for the craftsmanship and articulation of classic luxury since way back. “On the last day of 3rd grade I told my friends what I was going to wear on the first day of 4th Grade,” he recalls. That outfit — a yellow Ralph Lauren shirt with a green player, a pair of Levis with intricate seaming, and Nike Turfs — foretold the vision of Ali today, a connoisseur of the cool and uber original. His jeans are still part of his timeless uniforms, although now they’re worn to an artful, tattered perfection. Also eternal for Ali are his colorful cable knit RL sweaters that he refers to as his “Linus blanket.” What Ali has added to his repertoire are his anything but trendy shoes, like old Dior velvet slippers and paint-splattered, time-honored Gucci loafers. His mom drilled into him the importance of visualizing what you desire. Her exact words: “If you see it, it already exists.” When Ali was five years old, he saw the otherworldly loft that he currently inhabits in a dream. An ode to a character of times gone by, his personal space is filled to the brim with wooden tennis rackets, college memorabilia, leather bound books and suitcases, and the history of all things collectible in denim and canvas.
Married to sensational details — long-billed hats (or the occasional fedora), floral Purple Label pants, World War I Japanese cavalry jodhpurs, kimonos worn by an actual monk, and bespoke quality suits (that he kills with edginess by wearing them with a 100-year-old indigo scarf ) — Ali feels that style is most poignant when it’s unconscious and innate. He sees the aliveness in hammers from the 30s and 40s and has the radar to find a museum piece, like a 20 dollar beaded Indian belt, at the Salvation Army. The passion put into the pre-corporate era’s attention to stitching, buttons, lining, labels, silhouettes, fastenings, and fabrics is what sends Ali into a zen orbit. And he is most at peace when on the treasure hunt. “It’s equivalent to an endorphin rush — the same as biting into your favorite piece of cake or great sex. You’re alive,” Ali exclaims as he emphasizes how a certain state-of-the-art military belt can inspire a whole designer’s collection. So enveloped by the richness of his conquests, Ali feels that “the spirit of the person” who owned his treasures is still there. He even goes as far as to assert that the piece was destined to be his.
And if you think it, it will come.
Elisa & Lily
Ali’s video was edited by Paul O’Brochta