Alexa Chung’s designer debut sees London tomboy meets Parisian chic

The fashionista’s first catwalk show, at London fashion week, was assured – and unmistakably inspired by her own personal style

“Going to catwalk shows and being photographed wearing nice clothes doesn’t make you an expert on them,” said Alexa Chung on Saturday before her debut show as a fashion designer.

True, but the glamorous version of on-the-job training – which saw Chung become a well-known face at London fashion week long before she launched her Alexachung label – has paid off: her clothes comfortably held their own on the catwalk. Chung hopes this collection, entitled Arrivals and Departures, will show the industry her label is here to stay.

The biggest challenge of her first season as a designer was “the moving parts of putting on a fashion show”, said Chung backstage afterwards. “We built a maze for the models to walk through,” she explained of the curving screens which snaked around her subterranean venue. “It looked great but made things quite complicated. We had to paint arrows on the floor so the models didn’t get lost.”

Alexa Chung at her first show as designer
Alexa Chung: ‘Rock stars in the 70s. That’s always my favourite look.’ Photograph: Isabel Infantes/PA

The Alexachung look is very recognisably the Alexa Chung look. The mood is London tomboy, the cut Parisian chic. Most of the signatures that have seen Chung twice given the British Style trophy at the British Fashion Awards – essentially an official “best-dressed” – made cameo appearances here. A pair of off-white dungarees, a high-waisted jumpsuit, a bibbed party dress, cropped stiff-denim jeans, a patent trench coat: all these pieces are straight out of Chung’s own playbook and all looked contemporary and wearable.

“Rock stars in the 70s. That’s always my favourite look,” was Chung’s answer to the question of what was on this season’s moodboard. George Harrison in a departure lounge and Bianca Jagger on the steps of a private jet were touchstones. (There was even a safari suit.)

The experience of being photographed and scrutinised “gives you an insight into thinking about clothes as image making, which is different from thinking about clothes as what you might want to wear to the pub,” the model-turned-muse-turned-designer had said before the show. “It makes you think about clothes in terms of problem-solving and storytelling.”

A show that was set in an imaginary airport gave Chung the opportunity to flesh out some characters. So there was “a girl flying home from Ibiza who’s been up all night”, for instance. (That was possibly the one in the sultry black satin party dress teamed with clear plastic beach shoes.) The references were jetset but the details very British: a conversation print dress featured postcard images of Brighton and Margate. “Humour is always part of what I do. That’s a very British thing in fashion, I think,” said Chung.

Steve Coogan was a guest, along with Chung’s friends Daisy Lowe and Pixie Geldof, but the front row was relatively low key, suggesting Chung wanted to play down the celebrity angle of her brand. “I did this because I want people to recognise that we are a real company and we are not going anywhere,” she said. “And also because when anything slightly scares me or feels intimidating, I can’t help but want to open that door.”


Jess Cartner-Morley

The GuardianTramp

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