LONDON — Alexa Chung is shutting her eponymous label, which launched in 2017, WWD has learned.
The current spring collection, and the latest Barbour outerwear collaboration, will continue to be sold at full price through the brand’s e-commerce site until March 31.
It was Chung who decided to press pause, and she’s been winding down the business in an orderly manner.
The Alexachung label is not going into administration, nor is it being sold to a third party, according to sources familiar with the company. They also said final customer orders have been fulfilled, and members of staff have been paid and corporation taxes, insurance and leases have also been satisfied.
“During what has been a tumultuous time for independent businesses in the retail space, I have taken the very difficult decision to wind down operations,” said Chung, the brand’s founder and creative director.
“I am immensely proud of everything we have achieved. It has been the most incredible experience, and I have relished learning as much as I have. I would like to thank everyone who has supported us on our journey, from the brilliant team who have worked alongside me, to all of our customers and collaborators.”
Chung launched her label in May 2017, and her collections were laid-back, irreverent and tomboy-ish, with Britpop and vintage references.
In the years that followed, she held a string of shows and presentations in Europe and Asia. She staged two catwalk shows at London Fashion Week; a presentation on-schedule at Paris Fashion Week; a pop-up event in Tokyo, and parties in Berlin, Los Angeles, New York, and other cities.
The label played in the highly competitive, contemporary end of the market and was wholesale-based, selling at stores across the U.K., U.S., Europe and Asia, including Net-a-porter, Selfridges, Liberty, Mytheresa, The Webster, Bergdorf Goodman, Collette and Isetan.
Wholesale can be a tough, and expensive, route for independent, emerging labels, which is why many start-ups today prefer to go direct-to-consumer, and market their brands on social media. Chung joins a long list of small, independent London labels that have struggled with the wholesale model, even before the onset of COVID-19.
The pandemic put a further strain on smaller labels, with retailers canceling their orders, and discounting stock. As a result, many labels were forced to change tack quickly, and rely on the direct-to-consumer channel.
While Chung’s collection had been selling well, especially the knitwear and outerwear, it is understood she was reluctant to transform Alexachung into a fully direct-to-consumer business overnight.
Having started with wholesale, and forged strong relationships with the stores, she did not want to compromise on quality by suddenly changing the business model. Sources familiar with the company added that if she could start again, she’d do things differently.
“Having a fashion label of her own had been a long-term dream of hers, and she was 100 percent committed to the business,” one source said.
Alexachung is classified as a small business by Companies House, meaning revenues are under 10.2 million pounds and do not have to be disclosed.
Chung took her work seriously, sketching her designs on the creamy white pages of her beloved Zeichenblock notebooks and refining her silhouettes.
“My whole ambition, at all times, is to not look like clothes are fussy or are eating you, and to make something hang so that it flatters,” she told WWD during a walk-through of her first Barbour collaboration in 2019.
She was also well aware of what she was getting into when she launched the label.
“Fashion isn’t a ‘happy-making’ career path, necessarily. And it’s not a walk in the park, it’s not a joke. I anticipate ups and downs, but equally I’m along for the ride, and there are people whom I admire who have enjoyed incredible careers and built fantastic brands: Margaret Howell, Mary Quant, Mrs. [Miuccia] Prada, Paul Smith. People who seem like human beings still,” she said during a 2019 interview with WWD.
Fashion also gave Chung options beyond TV and modeling. “You need some autonomy. You can’t [continue to] be a girl, in a dress, for hire. It doesn’t age well,” she said.
While she may be winding down her label, she is still keen on fashion, and is said to be considering her next steps. Having made her name as a model and TV presenter on Channel 4 and MTV, she was also one of the first fashion influencers with her gamine style, angular bob and cheeky sense of humor.
She won the Fashion Icon prize three times at The Fashion Awards in London and has recently been a brand ambassador and campaign face for Gucci, Boucheron and Mulberry.
Even before launching her label she collaborated with myriad brands, including Superga, Marks & Spencer and AG Jeans, all of which were eager to channel her brand of youthful cool.
Last summer, more than a decade after launching the Alexa bag, Mulberry tapped Chung to create her own design for the brand as part of a series of projects marking that brand’s 50th anniversary.
She created a spacious shoulder bag called the Big Guy, and a compact clutch known as the Little Guy. Both were inspired by the ’70s style of actresses Charlotte Rampling and Lauren Hutton.
Chung’s collaborations continue to perform well: The outerwear collection Barbour by Alexachung is in its sixth season, and will continue until fall 2022, while Juju Jelly shoes were re-issued for a second year after selling out.