Madewell has signed Alexa Chung to create a fall collection, in the brand’s first celebrity collaboration.

This story first appeared in the January 19, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Madewell, which is part of the J. Crew Group, and Chung both exude downtown casual cool, with Chung bringing a “sexy tomboy, Sixties girls’ band” and Victorian aesthetic to the brand, or as she also put it, “things you wouldn’t mind getting dirty in and things that I actually wear.… I love how their vibe is a mix of vintage and new — it completely clicked with me.”

“There is no grand scheme to this, and we still don’t want to hire a celebrity spokesperson,” explained Millard “Mickey” Drexler, chairman and chief executive officer of J. Crew Group. “It’s just that Alexa is totally cool. It’s not the way she looks or dresses. It’s the way she is.”

The collection, to be called Alexa Chung for Madewell, will include polkadot tea dresses, dungaree dresses, high-waisted skinny jeans, oversize wool jackets with velvet and lace accents, and T-shirts with Chung’s photographs and illustrations, about 20 styles in all, much of it meant to mix with Madewell’s other products.

“This will complement Madewell and it’s quite in keeping with my style,” said Chung. There will also be little packages containing Chung’s drawings, writings, photos and doodles, “like a look book,” she said. “We’ll be giving them away.” Prices haven’t been set, but will be consistent with Madewell’s, which start at $14 for illustrated T-shirts, and peak at $500 for motorcycle jackets, with the core of the jeans presentation under $100.

Chung is partial to shopping at Topshop, Gap, Opening Ceremony, Chanel, Charles Anastase, Louella and Christopher Kane, and dates Alex Turner, the lead singer and guitarist from the Arctic Monkeys, an English alternative rock band.

“I was being offered so many collaborations for a long time, but I held off. I thought it would be quite a ‘sellout’ thing to do,” Chung told WWD. “But Madewell had a more organic approach. They seemed really interested in my ideas and it’s a brand that I really admire. Hopefully, the authenticity of this collaboration will be obvious.”

Chung isn’t a fashion designer, but she’s studied graphic design and art. Little did she know that Madewell had noticed her style. Drexler one day got on his loudspeaker to solicit the staff’s input on defining Madewell’s target customer. Chung’s name came up from personnel at Madewell stores where she shopped and that led to Madewell executives dining with her to consider a linkup.

“Alexa’s style is inspiring and inventive, yet unbelievably approachable and down-to-earth,” added Madewell design director Kin Ying Lee. “She has such a clear point of view.” The retailer will launch Alexa Chung for Madewell in its stores and online at in late August. Madewell launches e-commerce this spring. Chung will also be the face of the collection for the fall campaign. It is to be determined if the company will do a second Alexa Chung collection.

There are 17 Madewell stores, but it’s possible a few more are added this year.

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