LONDON — Savile Row tailoring was a major theme at the fall men’s shows that took place here earlier this week, and those traditions continue to exert a powerful influence on the city’s young talent.
Alexander Lewis, who presented his pre-fall collection this week, trained as a pattern cutter at Norton & Sons on Savile Row, and thinks like a tailor even when he’s designing for women. “The head pattern cutter used to tell me, ‘Get your eye in!’ meaning that you need to see the shape, form and fit of a garment, and also take into account the customer’s desires — everyone wants to be the best version of themselves,” he said during an interview at his small flat-cum-design studio in Knightsbridge. “I learned so much on Savile Row, but mostly it was about how to translate that desire to flat paper to 3-D designs.”
This lineup marks Lewis’ second outing. Interestingly enough, the designer is only focusing on pre-collections (resort 2013 was his first). That way, he said, he can keep them small and focused on holiday themes, such as a trip to Aspen, Colo., which was his pre-fall inspiration. He looked to the mountain town’s climate, mood and architecture during its Seventies heyday, and designed the fabrics himself. The slightly shiny brocade mimics birch tree bark and is used for jumpsuits, V-shaped panels on minidresses and cropped trousers, the latter which take their cue from retro ski pants. Cotton and silk blouses are elongated versions of men’s shirts, with gentle, rounded cutouts at the nape of the neck to give them a more feminine flourish, while sleeveless shift dresses with hidden, hook-and-eye closures down the front feature V-insets made from mohair, recalling the old A-frame houses that were once Aspen’s defining architectural feature. Woolen knitwear ranges from handmade waffle-knit crewnecks to cardigans inspired by hippie tie-dyed patterns, to color-blocked pullovers worn on top of the brocade dresses.
As for accessories, there’s a cowboy boot-inspired slingback and hitched horsehair bracelets.
Retail prices range from 200 pounds, or $322, for camisoles and T-shirts, to 2,000 pounds, or $3,220, for a brocade jumpsuit. His resort collection currently sells on the Web site Avenue32.com.
Unlike many London designers, Lewis, who is part American and part Brazilian, didn’t attend fashion school. He was educated at Harrow — the alma mater of Winston Churchill and Lord Byron — and later got a degree in business and communications from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. His senior thesis was on gender and sexuality in the work of John Galliano. While he was studying in Los Angeles, Lewis began designing his own collections for fun, and also worked for Cameron Silver at Decades. He later assisted André Leon Talley on styling projects.
After moving back to the U.K., he worked for Norton & Sons and later for its sister company, the men’s ready-to-wear label E. Tautz, on both the creative and business sides.
While Lewis is still keeping his signature offering relatively small, his plan is to eventually expand into full-size spring and fall collections. “I have so many other stories to tell about women,” he said. “In the future, there will be much more of a focus on craftsmanship techniques.”