Alexa Chung wants to show that she’s more than another “It” girl. In addition to pulling pieces from Marks & Spencer’s archives for a special capsule collection and prepping to shoot her fall ad campaign for AG next week, she’s revving up interest in her fashion app called Villoid. Formerly known as Sobazaar, the tech company hosted a garden tea party at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood on Thursday. Before greeting her friends, including Poppy Delevingne and Kelly Osbourne, the 32-year-old chatted with WWD about becoming an app-maker, influencing young women on social media and hating the commercialization of festival fashion.
WWD: What makes Villoid different from other fashion apps?
Alexa Chung: Basically it’s a social-fashion app with more emphasis on the social. It’s an opportunity for people to make mood boards with items from our affiliates such as Net-a-porter or MyTheresa.com. We’ve got loads of different brands you can play with. And you can assemble a dream mood board to showcase your style without having actually to own any of the clothes or worry about what they look like on your figure or any of these things that might affect how you get dressed and how you express yourself. It’s like Pinterest and Instagram with a “buy” button. It’s more about sharing your ideas, sharing your kind of vision. It’s a chance to express yourself.
WWD: What does the name Villoid mean?
A.C.: Nothing. I thought Sobazaar just didn’t seem right.
WWD: What exactly was your role at Villoid?
A.C.: I was brought in to creative-direct and to help bring new brands in and to establish some kind of social media strategy and all these other components.
WWD: Why did you want to add app-maker to your résumé? You’re busy doing other projects.
A.C.: The same reason I do anything. I’m quite keen to learn different areas of business. And I felt like when I met Jeanette [Dyhre Kvisvik] and Karin [Kallman] and the rest of the team from Norway, they were just really passionate about this project. Any opportunity to be creative and to be able to have creative input is very appealing to me.
WWD: This party is conveniently squeezed between the two Coachella weekends. Did you go last weekend?
WWD: Are you going to go this weekend?
A.C.: No. I went for about 10 years, which really ages me. It’s a wonderful festival. Last year, queuing for a taxi for three hours was like the final nail in the coffin for me.
WWD: Are you going to any other music festivals this year?
A.C.: Yes, Glastonbury, Governors Ball and Way Out West looks fun. I don’t know. I’m always up for a festival.
WWD: What was your reaction when you heard the news about Prince’s death?
A.C.: I was very sad. I was actually in the party shop buying the arrangements you see hanging through the trees.
WWD: Did you ever see Prince perform? He played Coachella one year.
A.C.: No, I never got to see him. There was a rumor that he would always play Glastonbury every year — “and the third act is going to be Prince” — because they announce the headline acts in dribs and drabs. I was sad to have never seen him.
WWD: What’s your take on festival dressing? A lot of people are doing festival collections.
A.C.: No, I can’t. That’s actually the thing that turns me off about it now, I think. I just don’t like people to be dictated to. I think you should dress however you want. Again, it’s another opportunity for what seems quite clique-y to be “this is how you should be.” And everyone gets on the bandwagon. I think it just homogenizes something that should be about self-expression and being yourself. That’s the whole point of a festival. You get to finally see the music and the bands that really inspire you. When there is a uniform surrounding that, again — it’s another exclusive kind of thing that, I think, is a bit annoying.
WWD: What’s your approach to dressing for a music festival? Is it based on the weather?
A.C.: Yeah, big time. Most of the ones I go to are in Britain and that’s kind of rainy. I do like to dress up for festivals. I think it’s fun. You can get away with more in that scenario than perhaps you can at a cocktail party or somewhere else. Yeah, weather first, really.
WWD: What advice do you have for women who admire your style and need to pack for a festival?
A.C.: Well, the first year at Coachella I did it all with one rucksack. I was in L.A. for a week. It’s possible to take three things and look all right, I think. Make sure you just take shoes you don’t really care about because they’re going to get really sandy at Coachella. Footwear is always the first thing to start with a festival. If it’s muddy, you need Wellie boots. I think when you look at how people are dressing, the ones that seem the coolest are the ones that seem weather-appropriate, when you think about it. The more things are ridiculous, given the climate, the less cool it seems.
WWD: Do you sense a responsibility with having all these fans that follow you and your style on social media?
A.C.: It depends on what day it is. Sometimes I’m like, “No! I didn’t choose this. Whatever.” Then other days I’m like, “I have this opportunity to influence young women and I should think of something quite powerful and important to say.” I haven’t come up with it yet, though.