THE ‘IT’ GIRL OF FASHION – FROM MODEL TO DESIGNER
With the approach of Alexa Chung’s second runway show, Fatima Salajee looks at the evolution of Alexa Chung from model to designer, and how ALEXACHUNG is taking London Fashion Week by storm.
For the past decade Alexa Chung has graced both our magazines and our TV screens. But with the success of her second runway show and becoming a household name in the fashion world as the designer, how did the ‘IT’ girl make that transition from model to designer?
Born on the 5 November 1983 in Hampshire to an English mother and Chinese father, Alexa was the youngest of three children. At five foot eight Alexa was quickly scouted and began modeling at the age of 16. Even she Alexa was accepted to Kings College London to read English and Chelsea College of Art and Design for their foundation course, she opted to become a model, signing with Storm.
Over the past decade and a half, she has collaborated with many designers such as Madewell, Lancôme and Mulberry (the Alexa bag is one of the brand’s bestsellers). Alexa then moved on from modeling and graced us with her presence on the TV screen appearing as a television host on Big Brother’s Big Mouth and It’s On with Alexa Chung as well as having a column in The Independent and being a contributing writer to British Vogue. So, with an already booming career, what propelled Alexa to start her own line?
In 2016, after seven years of living in New York City, Alexa Chung moved back to London. It was at that time that her then boyfriend Alexander Skarsgård persuaded to start her own fashion line rather than have another collaboration. Thus, the namesake label ALEXACHUNG was born.
The vision for the brand was “Parisian chic with a New York edge, combined with a very British sense of humor”. ALEXACHUNG’s dresses, trousers and tops elicit confidence for the wearer. They are purposeful clothes with Alexa’s imprint of cool. For Alexa it was incredibly important for her to base her business in London. She has stated, “I wanted it to be a British brand. There are elements of Britishness I’ve always loved: being open to eccentric people and having an inbuilt humour kit.” This is reflected in her brand with its tomboyish but romantic and slightly ethereal,whimsical clothing.
Since the launch of ALEXACHUNG in 2016, the brand has taken off. It currently has 140 stockists in 22 countries and has exceeded its financial projections. Currently the brand has a staff of 25, including Edwin Bodson, the managing director, who came from the brand Haider Ackerman. According to Bodson, Alexa’s first sales were 40% above target and he has said, “She asked me to make a very honest, clean supply chain and to have a quality level she can be proud of.”
70% of ALEXACHUNG products are made in Portugal, with all the leather and denim made in Italy. Bodson has also stated that if any products are made in China they are audited heavily, making the brand incredibly conscious of their impact in the world. In September 2018, Alexa Chung moved on from having her own label to her first runway show. The show was called ‘Arrivals and Departures’, and even had its own fake logo for a travel company, AC World Travel Inc. The message of the show was about transition, in the eyes of Alexa Chung this would be saying goodbye to New York and hello to London. It took until 2017 for Alexa to make London her permanent home with less transatlantic travelling.
Alexa chose the theme of ‘Arrivals and Departures’ as she has always been fascinated with airport travelling; this is because there are people from all over the world in one hallway, all with different fashion tastes expressing themselves. “It’s where people are the most vulnerable, because you’re flying either long haul or short haul but feeling really gross, so how does one’s personal style leak out of them when they’re in an environment that’s deeply unglamorous?… When you do spot someone that’s looking really dapper in an airport you’re like ‘wow, total image commitment.”
For the artistic process, Alexa looked for inspiration from the 1960s and 1970s, times which inspire her own personal fashion style. Alexa said her influences were George Harrison in a departure lounge and Bianca Jagger and Pattie Boyd on the steps of a private jet; a time where travelling by plane was a unique experience. The clothes represented the glamour of vintage air travel. Think vintage styles silky pastel dresses with bunnies or postcards or vinyl rain macs, mustard suits and bucket hats with jelly sandals. The collection also featured eveningwear including a black slip dress with rhinestones and a sequins dress with a thigh high split, making the clothing sexier but still with the ALEXCHUNG vibe.
The show itself had very few celebrities attending, a point that was made by Alexa herself as she wanted the public to recognise the brand itself. The show was a huge success, with queues outside the Victoria House Venue of major fashion editors. With Alexa Chung’s second show happening this LFW, the world of fashion awaitedto see what she would bring to the stage. I personally can’t wait to see what Alexa Chung does next, she is a breath of fresh air in the fashion industry and her ability to infuse New York chic and Parisian staples into London fashion is what makes her unique.
You can read more of Fatima’s work on LondonRunway.co.uk.