The fashion realm is notorious for its breakneck pace, as sartorial trends can abruptly swing like a barometer caught in a wintry squall. Fashion is unabashedly attracted to a sense of newness, constantly in search of auteurs and tastemakers who can usher the conversation into exciting, albeit sometimes nostalgic, terrain. Relevance and longevity are hard-earned, which means a certain brand of gusto is essential to establishing a unique niche. Thus it seems almost natural that creative director and style maven Alexa Chung has been able to shrewdly maneuver throughout the industry for over a decade, expanding her acumen without sacrificing her irresistible idiosyncrasies.
Jacket and jeans by CHANEL; t-shirt by ALEXACHUNG.
Speaking over Zoom from her boyfriend’s West London flat— dressed as what she calls a “middle-aged pottery teacher” in a flouncy button-up and dangly floral necklace—Chung giddily points to her oven mitt, hanging in the background like some culinary icon. Like many of us, she has taken advantage of this prolonged bout of domesticity to deepen her reverence for cooking, trying her hand at mastering “a fabulous vegetarian lasagna.” Aside from these savory diversions, her time indoors has allowed Chung to further explore her sources of creative inspiration, namely fantasy and film. “It’s been a great opportunity to catch up on all the classics. I’ve been watching a lot of movies,” she reveals. “In fact, I actually went on a full
Al Pacino thing. I became like a weird mega-fan. I watched Serpico,
I watched Scarface.”
Vest by Molly Goddard; shirt by Aries Arise; beret by Dior.
This love of cinematic escapism also informs her approach to designing for her eponymous brand, launched in 2017. Jetting around the world as a writer, television presenter, and model, Chung mingled with glitterati from across the arts and culture spectrum and became a staple of the front row. As her public profile grew, brands latched onto the budding fashion prodigy for exclusive collaborations, which soon became rather daunting. “I couldn’t keep lending myself to all these people” she admits. “I needed to grow something, manifest my energy and hard work into something more long-term.” A conscious move back to London, where she could focus her creative instincts, resulted in her first real foray into designing clothing and accessories.
Full look by Fendi.
Although she was admired for her whimsical personal style, she experienced some initial self-doubt when imparting her own tastes into her brand, ALEXACHUNG. Aware of the skepticism directed at celebrity fashion lines, Chung was apprehensive about creating designs inspired by her renowned wardrobe. “I wasn’t comfortable with it being a derivative of my own personal style, because that was almost too many steps, being too vulnerable in front of everyone. It already had my name.” However, over time, she has learned to use her sartorial flair to her advantage, admitting “the massive advantage I had was that there was already a built-in audience. I’m lucky that there were these silhouettes that were associated with me, and rather than running away from it, now we really lean into it.”
Full look by Louis Vuitton.
Chung’s defiant and distinctive taste has challenged some preconceived notions of how women should dress. “I get dressed to amuse myself,” she admits, “more often than not. I feel like that’s always been the case.” Early on, Peter Pan collars and flat loafers became instantly recognizable signifiers of Chung’s unique take on fashion. “For me it was really funny, in my early ’20s, when you are meant to be your most fertile-looking, gorgeous, sexual self, to dress up like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or like an old judge, and cover up. That tension between things is what makes it interesting.” As she has matured, the tide has turned, favouring more scantily clad options, now that it is unexpected. This contrarian inclination has kept her refreshingly spontaneous, and her style connoisseur status intact.
Sweater and shorts by ALEXACHUNG; necklace by Completedworks; socks by Budd; loafers by CHANEL.
Alongside her stylistic instincts, Chung’s ability to remain consistently compelling is closely tied to her jaunty persona. When speaking about her proclivity for humour, she says that professionalism and lightheartedness are not mutually exclusive. “It’s a misconception that people who are jovial and funny aren’t serious. I’m obviously very serious,” she admits. “I’ve been able to build various businesses and a career over time. And I think that takes a certain amount of tenacity and believing in yourself.” The designer reveals how, when working with her team on a collection, she will often mimic different fashion industry stereotypes to lighten the mood. Speaking in a faux-French accent, she reveals a glimpse of a dictatorial creative director caricature that she sometimes inhabits, lampooning the ridiculous egotism of some industry folk with cunning satire. She intuitively understands that life can sometimes be unfathomably tragic, which leads her “to find everything kind of nonsense. I just think everything is really silly.”
Full look by Gucci.
However, Chung reckons that this stereotype—like many others—is often cursory and based off malice. She notes that while her earlier experiences with brands were often plagued by individuals suffering from serious bouts of imposter syndrome, the characteristically highbrow creatives from the realm of serious fashion are far more grounded. Miuccia Prada, or “Mrs. P” as she calls her, “is very funny and very real,” and Chung is quick to note that the renowned designer had Wes Anderson design the whimsical café in the Fondazione Prada, while also adding a massive slide that spirals out of her office.
Shirt by Dior.
Alessandro Michele, the visionary who has completely reinvented Gucci and reoriented the brand as a global fashion juggernaut, is another figure who Chung reveals to have an infectious sense of humour. It is only fitting that Michele tapped Chung to be one of the faces of Gucci’s latest “Winter in the Park” campaign, alongside singer–songwriter Celeste and actress Vanessa Kirby. Chung was immediately drawn to the distinct styling possibilities inherent in Michele’s designs, which, she notes, “cross over the Venn diagram with my own sartorial choices.” She recalls that, upon arriving on set the day of the photoshoot, Michele envisioned her styled in a “Grey Gardens, Jane Forth kind of way.” Forth, an erstwhile Warhol superstar, is someone Chung had been personally interested in for weeks before the photoshoot, as well as being another source of inspiration for her own designs. Chung admits that she and Michele are “kind of natural bedfellows” with a reliable symbiosis.
Never one to linger on the more dismal aspects of life, Chung is hard at work on forthcoming collections for her label, envisioning a world where “all lockdowns are gone, and everyone is really up for dressing in—pardon my French— quite slutty outfits.” Since fashion operates a year in advance, and with vaccines already being administered to bring an end to our current period of economic stasis, it is no surprise that many are yearning for a return to more hedonistic rituals.
Blazer and shorts by Michael Kors Collection; t-shirt by Aries Arise.
On a more personal note, Chung is also on the hunt for a much-needed change of scenery. “My main focus—morning, noon, and night—is finding a house,” she admits. “My dream is, I’ll find the perfect Georgian house which hasn’t been touched, and it’s in a really cool part of London, and it’s not going to cost much to renovate.” She also reveals that “mastering the art of interiors would be my next step. Not for public consumption—I just mean like, if I could figure out how to get curtains made, that would be really cool.” Given her track record, one can only assume that any drapery in her dream dwelling will be lustworthy and unapologetically Alexa.
Full look by Miu Miu.
Photography by Amar Daved at One Represents
Styling by Cathy Kasterine at CLM Agency
Makeup by Florrie White at Bryant Artists
Hair by George Northwood
Styling Assistant: Yuriko Hiratsuka
Photography Assistant: Dan Clarke and Liam Young