For many, this will be like hearing the girl everyone wants to date just announce that she’s met her match and that she’s now off the market. Alexa Chung, the Brit import who turned up here to work for MTV (despite her show going off the air, she’s still under contract; stay tuned) and Madewell, that purveyor of hip, youthful, and inexpensive Americana, are to join forces. Say it isn’t so! Yes, it is—and we are thrilled.
We can’t imagine that Madewell was the first brand to approach her, asking her to collaborate, consult, or just generally come over and pass on some of that gamine-redux style that she makes look so effortless. Yet Madewell were the perfect suitors because, Chung says, they were so laidback and undesperate. “I’d always been a bit cautious of collaborations—that they’d just be a money thing,” she says. “When I moved to New York, Madewell asked to meet me. I went in, and I liked the company. Everything about our meeting was very organic and casual; not full-on. They were open to suggestions.”
Chung had known about Madewell from her friend Jim, an American ex-roommate from her London days, who also just happened to be working for the brand. He called her up one day to tell her that her image was all over Madewell’s inspiration boards. She returned the compliment, buying its smock dresses and preppie blazers: “the kinds of things,” she says, “I love to wear.”
The first pieces from the collection will be available this September, and will be sold under the label Alexa Chung for Madewell. “Pretty original, huh?” she says, laughing. “I’d wanted to call it Better than a Poke in the Eye [a Britishism for “better than nothing”], but I think we’ll save that for the buttons on the jeans.” So, denim, then? “Yeah, because it is a big thing for them. We’re doing dungaree dresses.” The design directive she gave to herself was: “Things my girlfriends would wear, and say, ‘That’s sick!’ ” Expect high-waisted pants and jeans, velvet dresses with Peter Pan collars, and a coat based on a vintage children’s one she found that originally came from Harrods. There will be nothing that nods to the eighties or nineties, because she’s not into either decade. “I want to bring back forties tea dresses, sixties mod dresses… . I want to bring cute back.” If she means cute of the non-saccharine, supercool variety, she already has.
— Mark Holgate