Wearing high-waisted blue jeans, an animal print blouse and a pair of chunky sneakers, Alexa Chung describes her look as “a bit Rod Stewart” on the day that we meet. “I just need extra mullet,” she adds. Clearly funny, smart and possessing style in spades, the presenter, model and fashion icon's following is real for a reason. But now the 34-year-old is making waves behind the scenes.
After launching her eponymous label in 2017, Chung showed at London fashion week for the first time this month, before swiftly jetting to Australia to celebrate her second capsule collection for footwear brand Superga. We caught up with the designer while she was in town to talk sneakers, style and the songs to add to your playlist next.
What was the starting point for your new Superga range?
“For this one we were looking at different textures—suede, velvet, high-shine leather. And we revived this solid hiking heel from the Superga archives, [and] used that as a starting point to incorporate more of an outdoorsy element into the trainers.”
What’s your go-to pair?
“The black velvet sneakers.”
What was the highlight of presenting at London fashion week this year?
“The feeling of elation walking out at the end because I was like, ‘oh god, we’ve done it.’ I was just so happy because, regardless of how it was received, you work on something to express an idea or a moment in time, and then to be able to hurl it out the window of a moving car is just really nice.”
Do you have a favourite look from the show?
“I really like the yellow trousers and waistcoat situation.”
How would you describe your personal style?
“Boyish, a bit grandma, a bit like a ‘70s man in a band… I always struggle to describe it because I see it as a moving target, even though there are touchstones. But fundamentally I'm interested in purposeful clothes—I hope they are vehicles for expressing something. And I want to look cool as f**k, obviously!”
Who inspires your fashion choices?
“I was always interested in musician’s muses, and even created a collection called The Muse, which based around people like Anita Pallenberg, Marianne Faithful—the rock star wives of the ‘70s. But I actually found that I was equally intrigued by what the men had on.”
How is that expressed?
“Well, I find that when I'm not wearing Erdem after 9pm, I'm usually dressed as if I'm a kind of lascivious male lead singer.”
What fashion trends are you into at the moment?
“I quite like a scarf on the head. Like a granny going to the supermarket, tied under the chin.”
Are there any that you hate?
“I used to hate the ‘80s vehemently, but now I’m kind of relaxed about it. On the rare occasion that I look like a woman in a sexy dress, with slicked back hair and heels, it’s like I'm in the ‘Addicted To Love’ video.”
Do you have any outfit regrets?
"Years ago I tried to bring back cycling shorts at a Chanel show, and then I listed it as one of my big regrets—and now they’re back!"
You’re a big vintage fan—what are your tips for shopping second-hand stores?
“I think if you go in not knowing what you’re looking for it’s a disaster, but if you go in knowing, I want the perfect high-waist jeans or the ultimate cowboy boot, then you’re going to get it. Some of the best things that I’ve found have been in unexpected places—you’ve just got to have commitment to looking through the rack.”
How did you feel about being labelled an It girl at the beginning of your career?
“I sort of shunned it at the beginning, just because it grew out of a murky understanding of who I was and what I did. At the time I was like ‘I'm more than that!’ But now I'm older, and a woman, and I look back at that moment and think how fortunate I was to have enjoyed the things that came along with that [label].”
Do you feel like people understand you better now?
“I hope so. I only do interviews when I’ve got collections coming out; I'm less present on radio and television. It’s fulfilling in a different way because I get to express ideas and observations, as apposed to just constantly expressing myself. One of the downsides of being an ‘It person’ was that people were constantly asking me questions about things without giving me room to think. It’s nice to give people a mouthpiece, but only if they’ve got something interesting or of value to say.”
Last question—what are you listing to right now?
“I'm not really listening to any new music…actually, this is a weird one; there’s this woman called Gillian Hills, who is in her seventies, she was Britain’s answer to [Brigitte] Bardot, and she has just released this song that sounds really modern. It’s called ‘Nefertiti’. Also, ‘Tonight’ by Iggy Pop, 'Hot Dreams' by Timber Timbre, ‘Vitamin C’ by Can—all the classics.”