Alexander Lewis’s namesake label may be just four years young, but it has already gained firm fans in (former) Style.com greats Tim Blanks and Maya Singer, and was recently chosen to be part of the 2016 Swarovski Designers Collective alongside Peter Pilotto and Thomas Tait. The young designer, born in Brazil, raised in London and educated in LA, has quickly become known for his impeccable tailoring, mixed with the fluid sensibility of a young, modern woman.
Unusual for a designer who trained in menswear on Savile Row (before launching his own label in November 2011), his collections are consistently described in reviews as "insouciant." In essence, the Alexander Lewis girl is relaxed, daring and willing to take risks whilst always remaining impeccably sharp. He has struck a cord with a variety of demographics by choosing a vastly different muse for each season. Pre-fall 2014 was an LA Chola girl, while pre-fall 2015 was a young, conservative Jewish wife. The common thread: a cavalier and well-traveled mindset, with a love for fun fashion.
We sat down with the young designer (and Ryo, his Shiba Inu) to talk LA vs. London, his brief "The Hills" appearance and his trajectory from Andre Leon Talley's assistant to a rising star of British fashion.
You studied at USC. How did you find moving from somewhere as relaxed as LA to working somewhere as strict and traditional as Savile Row?
Actually the work ethic on Savile Row is super relaxed; it's just the clients that come off with a much more honed attitude. Whereas in LA, as relaxed as people may look, whether it's jeans, a T-shirt, leather jacket and boots, it still cost them probably $5,000 and a morning of headaches to figure out what T-shirt to wear.
You worked at the vintage designer clothing store Decades in LA before moving back to London to start your tailoring career. How did your time there influence your work?
It gave me a frame of reference and a perspective that I wouldn't otherwise have. I was mostly looking at garments from the 1970s, designers like Arnold Scaasi and Halston, but we had pieces from as early as the late 1890s. I was able to look inside a garment and see how it was finished, or look at a fit of a dress, or how the corsetry was done. It's like if you're learning a language you'd want to start with Latin as it's the root of all modern romance languages.
Tell us about your time with Andre Leon Talley.
I worked with him for a couple of months, when he was in LA working for Vogue, but also as a host of two events for the Oscars. One was a vintage Oscar fashion show that was being done for the Academy, which became quite famous because it was on "The Hills," when Whitney Port fell on the stairs in the dress that Hilary Swank wore when she won the Oscar. So I got to be on "The Hills" too for my time with Andre – very slight, blink and you miss me!
It was really fun, I was going all over the city doing crazy things that I thought were out of "The Devil Wears Prada." Not because he was mean or nasty, but just because the requests were so crazy sometimes.
What was the craziest thing that happened to you?
On the day of the Oscars, as we were on our way there at 7 a.m., I realized I'd forgotten my all-access pass, which we'd had to secure a month in advance. I didn't say anything to Andre; I just asked the driver to make a quick stop en route. But when we got to my apartment I realized that I'd left the keys to my house in my car, which I had valeted at his hotel. So in my tuxedo, I climbed up the outside of my apartment building to the second floor and broke in through the sliding door on the terrace.
You got your first collection reviewed on Style.com. Was that difficult?
I had been introduced to Tim Blanks many years before by Cameron at Decades, and we had kept in touch. Then coincidentally, when I went to Brazil for Christmas four years ago he was sitting near me on the plane. He ended up spending three days with me in Sao Paulo, where we went round fabric stores and antique stores, and he watched me research and work on the collection. As he'd seen that process, when it came to launching it I emailed him and asked if he'd be able to come and see my presentation. Because it was Paris and I was so near the Jean Paul Gaultier show, he, Nicole Phelps and Amy Verner from the Globe & Mail Canada all came together, which was fantastic.
When you decided to go to four collections a year, did you find it rapidly expanding? Did it put a lot more pressure on you?
The whole team was just me until about a year ago, and now there are three of us. I started to do four collections because I felt pressure from the buyers and the press. But actually, last week, I decided to go back to doing two collections a year, but by rolling pre-fall and autumn winter into one. It makes sense as a small company.
Do you have aspirations of doing a show eventually?
I've found most buyers and press prefer a presentation; it's a little more flexible, they can see the clothing up close and personal, and there's no hierarchy that's imposed on everybody. That creates so much bad energy at a show. Why do you want that bad energy when you have seven minutes to show them something, versus a two hour period when people can be much happier? So I think that presentations serve the brand ideology better than a show at the moment.
See his full spring 2016 collection in the gallery below.