Calderwood grew up in Seattle's eastside suburbs. Just out of high school, he began managing a Seattle clothing store called International News. He used material from a Boeing Co. surplus store to create fixtures, desks and other parts of a showroom, Amit Shah, who hired him, told The Seattle Times.
"Everyone knew Alex in Seattle through his involvement with Tasty Shows, which was one of the premier promoters in town, especially when it came to the burgeoning electronic scene," Jason Reynolds, founder and CEO of the Chords of Fame management company who worked with Calderwood on many occasions, told Billboard in an email conversation.
"At Sub Pop, where I worked, we intersected with him when our acts, such as Saint Etienne, would play the Aro-Space, a venue that he and his partners set up on Capitol Hill. Alex, along with Jared Harler and Nasir Rasheed, also had an indie label, Sweet Mother Recordings, which was releasing underground electronic LPs by a number of cutting-edge Seattle artists. One thing that was evident, even back then, was Alex and the label's great taste and unique design aesthetic. They definitely had a vision that was broader than just Seattle and the Pacific Northwest," Reynolds said.
In 1999, Calderwood and two friends launched Seattle's Ace Hotel in a flophouse that formerly served maritime workers. It's renowned for its much-imitated style, with vintage and repurposed furniture, record players and guestroom art by Shepard Fairey -- who later became famous for creating the "HOPE" poster that came to symbolize Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.
Ace Hotels later opened in Portland, Ore.; New York; Palm Springs, Calif.; and London, with others scheduled to open late this year or early next year in Panama City, Panama, and Los Angeles. Ace describes itself on its website as "a collection of individuals -- multiple and inclusive, held together by an affinity for the soulful."
"We try to do unexpected things from a design standpoint," Calderwood told The New York Times in 2008. "We want to celebrate the everyday with utilitarian objects."
"There was no disputing the massive amount of thought -- and creativity, all with a highly individual vision -- that was put into all of these different campaigns and projects," said Jason Reynolds.
Ryan Bukstein, Ace's director of public relations and marketing, said he had been working for the company for 14 years, since starting as an intern while in college. Calderwood was his friend and mentor, he said.
"His humility, spirit of collaboration and tireless work ethic has influenced our family at Atelier Ace and creatives across the globe," Bukstein wrote in an email Sunday. "We all plan to continue moving forward with the ideals Alex championed so naturally."
Calderwood is survived by his parents, Thomas and Kathleen Calderwood of Seattle; two sisters, Donna Roberts and Tahnee Ferry; and a brother, Tim Calderwood.