Alexa Chung has become famous for how she looks, rather than her day job as a television personality. She’s got a unique thing going — a tomboy/schoolgirl pluckiness that miraculously manages to look chic and modern, rather than childlike. Not every woman can pull off a Peter Pan collar, knee socks and loafers, but that won’t stop hundreds of thousands from trying. The 28-year-old gives Kate Moss a run for her money as the British export women most want to dress like. Which is where her second collection for Madewell, the popular sister label to J.Crew, comes in. Like the first one, the series of cute, eccentric dresses and separates is largely modeled on Chung’s personal wardrobe.
How do you feel about the “It”-girl label?
At the beginning I was uncomfortable with it. I guess it’s my British way of being wary of celebration as it ultimately precedes a fall. Before, the “It”-girl scene meant people like Paris Hilton. But not anymore. Now, it’s a different vibe. People like Diane Kruger, Elle Fanning and myself. I like to think we wear clothes in an interesting way, and not necessarily have the emphasis on sex. It’s pretty cool.
How do you approach design for the Madewell collection?
I’m designing for myself, rather selfishly. I don’t have a vested interest to make a line that is commercially viable. They’re all clothes that you can chuck on. A lot of my girlfriends are in bands, so I thought about clothes that would look good on the tour bus, onstage and if they stopped for gas at the petrol station.
People are always dissecting your style, but how would you describe it?
I appreciate classic design, it’s classic for a reason — a shirt and blazer is practical, comfortable and never looks dated. Carven is a brand that very much does what I love, a mix of strict mistress and schoolgirl. It’s not overtly sexy, and when you wear it you feel attractive. I’m more inspired by what men wear, people like Keith Richards, Bryan Jones and The Beatles. If I wear a girlie party dress, I prefer wearing it with a briefcase and brogues, though I’m a bit bored of that right now. I sometimes wish I’d been a boy. The more I think about it, the more I think my tomboy side is what I use to assert the fact that I’m not a pushover. I guess I’d call it modern power-dressing.
How much time do you spend on what to wear each day?
The key is: I don’t spend time getting ready in the morning, but I do put a lot of thought into the things I buy. If you know what your style is, it doesn’t matter how you assemble things?— you can just mix and match and it will always look nice.
You split your time between NY and London. What are the biggest differences, in terms of fashion, between the two?
People in England are less afraid to take risks and don’t necessarily follow trends, but instigate them naturally. The British have this eccentric, enchanting and mad heritage. In New York, it’s more mixed and tamed. In England, people indulge in this madness; in the States, people would be like, “Oh my gosh, what is she wearing?!”
You have been a model, a TV presenter and a designer. Which role do you feel most comfortable with?
Before I was on TV, I went to art school; and if I hadn’t become a TV presenter, I would have done design of some sort. It’s more my scene and what I’m most comfortable doing. TV is not something I’m naturally good at, whereas when I’m sketching in the Madewell office, it feels natural and easy. In the U.K., everyone is saying, “Alexa is concentrating on her TV career” — but it’s not that. I need the money. I’m like everyone else, TV is my job. I don’t think of my new TV show as a big return and me trying to reinvigorate my career in the U.S. I make money from doing TV, so I have to do it. Anyway, I’m so hyperactive and such an attention-seeker that I need to do TV to fulfill my need and desire to be listened to. I need it to tire me out or I‘d go a bit nuts.