Thursday, 13 March 2014

A Chat with Alexandra Mann


Alexandra Mann in her London Studio
Simply put, some people were born to work in fashion. Their creative flair is noticeable from their earliest years. Brit Alexandra Mann is one of those people. At a very young age, she insisted friends and strangers dress in an avant garde manner - styling them with props from the fancy dress box. 

Alexandra's love of all-that's-fashion has only thrived since and it's taken her around the world in search of inspiration, fabric and print. We caught up with her to delve more into the story behind her beautiful designs. 

When and why did you decide to be a designer?
It involved a large dressing up box at my grandparents house and dressing up my friends for pretend tea parties. I was quite a bossy child, telling everyone what to wear. I was also really into film and I found Elizabeth Taylor's costumes in Cleopatra mesmerising. Then at about 12 or 13 I discovered Vogue magazine. I have always loved style and clothing more than fashion. I knew from the age of 10 that I wanted to graduate in fashion. I went on to study at Nottingham Trent and adored my time there.

What are you main creative influences?
Like most designers I am sure I am a sponge for culture. I find a walk down Ridley Road Market revs me up as much as a trip to the Tate Modern or Britain. I love living in London; there's so much to absorb, to taste, to smell, to watch. Waddesdon Manor and its grand decadence is a favourite place of mine for inspiration. It's a beautiful backdrop to some exquisitely curated shows - Bruce Munro at Christmas blew my mind. 
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
At the moment its all a bit Origami. 
Who is your favourite designer and which aspect of their work do you most admire?
Vivienne Westwood will always be close to my heart. I worked for her in my early 20s. She doesn't care what anyone else thinks about how she looks and is her own person in every way. I feel very lucky to have worked for such an inspiring institution as her. Her last Gold Label show was immense. I identify with her cut and use of fabrics. A lot of my wardrobe is from her Gold Label. I feel like myself in Vivienne's clothes, in the undoneness of it all. She drapes a lot of her clothes which is how i still cut, drafting patterns in quarter scale first. I still want a vintage YSL tuxedo though...

What aspect of your work gives you the most pleasure?
The creative freedom and getting feedback from people that are happy with their private order or purchase. Satisfied customers in a nutshell. I feel very lucky to have turned a passion into a business. 

Where are you most creative?
At my studio in De Beauvoir, surrounded by colour, pattern, books, records. I feel creatively rooted there.

What is your workspace like? 
It was recently described as organised chaos by a client - I thought that was a pretty accurate summation! People like to hang out here, it's creative, cosy and very personal. There's boxes, trims and fabricseverywhere. Things to play with. There is a lot going on

How do you describe your style?
Pretty juxtaposition, organised chaos, Rabbinic, tomboy.

What was the best advice you received when you first started out?
Work hard and be kind to people and that cheap tights are a false economy.

What advice do you have for fledgling designers?
Practice, practice, practice. It really helps to be able to make your own samples when developing designs. Get an internship with someone you admire and never give up. There is always something new to learn. Think about what you want or need. Then design it.  

How do you achieve a work/life balance?
I am not sure I do! I have a rule not to stay at work past 9pm, but if really get into what I am doing, I go with it.
What are you other passions?
Music. Food. Film. Ibiza. My god children. 

What is your favourite food?
This is really hard! I love food. Right now I am craving oysters with hot tabasco and some real ale please!

What are your greatest weaknesses?
Sage & Wilde, a wine pop-up in Hackney, Comme des Gar├žon, and blue eyed boys.

For a selection of Alexandra Mann's Washbags click here.
And for our Alexandra Mann for Roost Living's Exclusive cushions click here