He’s young—just 27 years old—but the Chicago-born, London-raised designer Alexander Lewis is no industry rookie.
He’s been cultivating his interest in fashion since high school, when he got his start designing for the Minnesota-based shoe company Red Wing (his father was a managing director). During college at the University of Southern California, he worked with Cameron Silver at the vintage mecca Decades and also assisted André Leon Talley while the Vogue editor was temporarily based in LA. Back on the other side of the pond, there was a stint at Harrods and an apprenticeship on Savile Row.
Lewis has built this exhaustive CV in the most impressively deliberate of ways. It’s all been leading up to this—the launch of his own eponymous line.
Read on for our Q&A with Lewis upon the introduction of his first collection to Barneys New York.
Where is the place where you feel most at home?
London. I moved there when I was nine and I went to a really British school, Harrow, before going to school in LA—so my upbringing was quite English.
Now I live in Knightsbridge, which is probably not the best example of what London is but it is also is in certain some ways. It’s super touristy, always really hustly and bustly—there’s a lot going on. What I really love about it more than anything is just the access to the rest of the city.
What kind of fashion education did you receive when you worked at Decades in LA? Did any designers catch your eye?
At that time, I thought all of the Don Loper designs were quite romantic—he did a lot of work for Lucille Ball. I loved Madame Grès and Stavropoulos—names that were really big in the ’70s because the owner, Cameron [Silver], has a penchant for that era. What was really amazing was just seeing stuff up close and personal, things I’ve heard about and seen in books or museums—Dior or ’60s couture from Balenciaga or Yves Saint Laurent. The proximity to these pieces was what was so remarkable.
What kind of value did this close observation provide?
I could see the materials, the details and the interior workings of the dresses, and that is something that is quite amazing about the period—they actually had construction in the dresses! Whereas today, you open a dress and there’s almost nothing. I’m of the school where there’s almost nothing in my dresses, but I learned to appreciate what the underpinnings can do you for your structure.
What was the impetus for starting your own collection?
Well, I wanted to start my own collection since I was about 15. But it’s a long process, and I felt it was important to absorb and take in all these different elements since I hadn’t gone to fashion school. I went through the school of life, I suppose—the fashion school of life.
What were the sources of inspiration for your first collection here at Barneys, Pre-Fall 2013?
Aspen—but it’s not really about ski per se. I’ve actually personally have only ever spent summers in Aspen. I’ve never experienced the Mariah-Carey-and-Ivana-Trump-in-white-fur side of the city. The collection is being delivered now, and this is the time of year that I actually picture the women wearing it.
Aspen is super sporty; people are walking around during the day in fleece, but then at night they change into something a bit nicer to go see a Wagner piece or go out for dinner. I wanted it to feel like she could be doing all of those things in any of the looks. It just is all very transitional.
Is there someone you would love to see wearing [your clothes]? It could be a starlet or a literary figure.
I’d love to see Katy Moran wearing my clothing. She’s an Irish painter based in London. She’s really cool, she likes her fashion. I also would like Sadie Coles to wear it—she’s a gallerist in London.