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