All change on all fronts Alexa Chung makes her de­but as a de­signer

The Guardian - - NATIONAL | LONDON FASHION WEEK - Jess Cart­ner-Mor­ley ▲

Nine years ago, Alexa Chung was at Lon­don fash­ion week as a Mul­berry muse, watch­ing from the front row as the £750 satchel named af­ter her starred on the cat­walk. This week­end she is back in a dif­fer­ent guise, tak­ing her first bow as a fash­ion de­signer when her own la­bel stages a cat­walk show in Blooms­bury this morn­ing.

It is all change on all fronts at fash­ion week. A big-pic­ture shake-up sees the most rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent sched­ule in years. Chung’s de­but is fol­lowed by the first Lon­don cat­walk show by Vic­to­ria Beck­ham, a tro­phy trans­fer from New York fash­ion week. Mon­day

will be dom­i­nated by the de­but at Burberry for Ric­cardo Tisci, a mul­ti­award-win­ning fash­ion de­signer with a cult fol­low­ing and an ap­petite for con­tro­versy, who prom­ises to rein­vent Burberry, Lon­don’s big­gest lux­ury brand – a re­boot with the power to change what Bri­tish fash­ion stands for.

There is a new mood of bank­a­bil­ity in Bri­tish fash­ion. “The lat­est statis­tics are un­equiv­o­cal. The in­dus­try is now worth £32.3bn, and is grow­ing three times faster than the rest of our econ­omy,” said Jus­tine Si­mons, a deputy mayor of Lon­don, yes­ter­day, be­fore tak­ing her seat on the first full day of shows.

Last week’s an­nounce­ment that Chanel is to move its cen­tre of global op­er­a­tions to Lon­don has fur­ther boosted com­mer­cial con­fi­dence, and Tues­day’s Down­ing Street re­cep­tion will re­flect a newly busi­nesslike mood. What is usu­ally a cocktail-hour cel­e­bra­tion of de­sign tal­ent and creative ex­cel­lence will this time be an af­ter­noon re­cep­tion “fo­cus­ing on the fash­ion busi­ness and the im­por­tance of in­ter­na­tional trade”.

“It might look like a weird tra­jec­tory from the out­side, but it’s no sur­prise to me that I’m in this po­si­tion now,” said Chung of her tran­si­tion from muse to creative di­rec­tor and founder of a la­bel em­ploy­ing a team of 30, from pat­tern cut­ters to sales­peo­ple.

She said: “What it sig­ni­fies is that peo­ple are more open-minded about what be­ing a fash­ion de­signer means. We are less hung up on prove­nance. If a per­son wasn’t trained to make a dress, does that put you off the dress? Does it mat­ter, if it’s a beau­ti­ful dress and it makes you feel great?”

Prep­ping for the show from her Dal­ston of­fice, Chung name-checked Beck­ham and Kanye West as de­sign­ers from non-tra­di­tional back­grounds who have made an im­pact on fash­ion week.

Holed up in her Ham­mer­smith HQ with two days to go be­fore her show, Alexa Chung has hailed de­sign­ers from non-tra­di­tional back­grounds Beck­ham said she was “deliri­ous” with nerves at be­ing in the Lon­don spot­light. Some of her most loyal cus­tomers are fly­ing in from Aus­tralia and Mex­ico for the occasion.

“I’m al­ways un­der scru­tiny. And yes, I al­ways feel it, but I try to ig­nore it and to fo­cus and do the best job I can. And I try to keep my sense of hu­mour, be­cause that helps.” Mark­ing her 10th year as a de­signer, she said she was ready to “put my foot on the gas” and ex­pand her brand, with a beauty range in the plan­ning stages.

Last sea­son, at­ten­dees at Lon­don fash­ion week drank 20,000 cups of espresso and 5,000 glasses of pros­ecco. This sea­son, the in­dus­try is hop­ing for an even more im­pres­sive set of statis­tics.

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