Photography: Hazel Gaskin
Styling: Patricia Villirillo
What inspired your Autumn/Winter 2015 collection?
It was a reflection on how I was feeling at the time. Spring/Summer 2015 was so hand-worked and hand-embellished and it was all about used clothes and how they age, with different layers of owners. In the next season I wanted to get rid of the idea of time. I wanted it to be new clothes but I wanted to make it look retro but mixed with Northern Soul. I imagined guys in the dance halls of northern England, that sort of thing!
I tend to do a lot of illustrations and graphics on the clothes but I wanted to change that slightly by making the clothes look more like the illustrations. A bit like an emoji… but chicer! The clothes would become the illustration rather than them having the illustration put on them (even though there was some of that in there). The graphics game from tearing up After Dark magazine, putting the prints on the fabric, and making the clothes from it in quite a primitive way.
The main idea was around this guy I’d created. He lived on his own in his apartment. He was quite lazy but also quite sexy. He slobbed about in his pants and a big coat. He was successful but annoyingly successful; successful for doing not much at all. I want his back story to be obvious in the final outcome. So you can see his decisions throughout life in the collection. It was the intrigue of this person, this character that spurred on all the fabrications, the proportions and the feel of the collection.
Do you always visualise someone to design for in this way?
Completely. This guy has to be real. Or someone who I believe can be real. It might be a photo that I found somewhere and I decide that that’s him. Or it can be someone who I’ve made in my head. I don’t really want him to have a face. It has to be someone that I can believe existed in the last few decades or now or next year.
It’s not just about him. It’s about what he’s doing, where he lives, what job he’s doing, what he enjoys, who he likes and doesn’t like. Who his character is, and why we would be designing clothes for him, why am I making his wardrobe?
It gets quite deep and I get quite obsessed. I get to the point here I really, really want them to exist. So last season, I loved this guy by the end of it. I mean he was a bit of an idiot, and in my head he was a bit of a twat, but I really loved him!
The guy changes with each collection but each has a similar vibe. I never imagine this guy speaking very much. I don’t know why. I can never hear him, or imagine him speaking but I want the clothes to speak for him so maybe that’s why I can’t hear him speak.
How do you cope with the quick turnaround from season to season?
It’s quite tricky but it’s just the way it goes. I find it difficult as I’m still a pretty young brand and the bigger you get the more people you can hire etc. It’s insane to think that some people do pre- and resort seasons too!
It’s all about learning on the job. You have to just do it and be as good as you can be at all of the stuff. But it does put you in quite a naive position at times. Sometimes, you’re just like ‘shit, I don’t know what to do here’ you don’t always know the rules and the etiquette if you’re a business. Especially when you’re being showcased as equals with brands that have been going four times as long as your own. But as time goes on you get stronger, more confident, and braver with what you’re doing. I feel a lot stronger now than I do last year. It’s just time.
People like to pretend there’s no problems – I’ve read articles where people are like ‘yeah I’ve started my own brand it’s really fun’ etc. No, it’s really fucking difficult! And the amount of stuff you have to deal with that no one tells you about, like all the admin and taxes etc. is hard. But I do get quite a kick out of doing all the business side of it. It is difficult but I really love it. I’m very lucky to be in the position my hobby from a young age is now my job.
How do you feel about the incredible growth of Men’s Fashion Week over the last few years?
Obviously for me it great! But it’s about time that menswear got its recognition in London. It was just on the tail end of the womenswear week for years but now there’s more and more menswear brands emerging, it’s starting to match womenswear. It definitely enforces the desire for men to have more choice. And it enforces competition which will make it more difficult for young and emerging designers to get in.
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
My advice is go and work, and try to get in some big companies. I think it’s a really good thing to do. You get so much more experience and you improve your skills. You learn about the importance of ideas and the value of ideas, and you get experience on how to express your ideas in the professional world.
Finally, what are three words to describe your brand?
Creative, graphic construction.
Check out Alex’s website for more details http://alexmullins.co.uk
Text by Rachel Speed