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Interview: Alex Mullins

October 22, 2012

There are loads of talented fashion students in the UK—so many, in fact, that the press watches the thesis collections of graduating seniors pretty much as closely as London Fashion Week. But none this spring were cooler than that of Royal College of Art student Alex Mullins. We're loving the idea of a heavy full-length duster coat for winter this year, and Mullins killed the college's runway with a series of swagged-out, long wool coats—ideal for freezing walks through the city, and shown on top of delicate kitten T-shirts, fringe, floral embroidery and silk pants, cutting the weight of the piece with a sweet, dandy-fied underbelly. The collection was an odd and somehow perfect mix of references—equal parts rodeo cowboy, MC Hammer and Oscar Wilde, and we caught up with Mullins to see where his head was at while creating such an imaginative collection.

Where did your obsession with fringe come from? Since I was quite young, I’ve been really, really, really into cowboys and Indians. I also like funny ’80s and ’90s pop stars like Cher or TLC who wore fringe, but I think that most of it is due to cowboys and Indians. On the old TV shows, they look so outlandish in their chaps and denim and fringe, but still really, really masculine. And that’s something I think is really interesting. Like rodeo stars—they wear completely diamante-covered outfits, but still they look like hot as shit, they still look really sexy, and I think that’s amazing.

What was on the moodboard for this collection? I showed it to my friend and she thought it was “pimp daddy meets Robin Hood meets Hollywood meets Ray Petri's Buffalo style, from the ’80s.” That’s a funny way of looking at it. I was thinking about this kind of warped world of really intense mixes of culture—tribal, old, new. About three years ago, I saw a piece on the news about the apocalypse—it was about the population of the world, and it said that the whole population of the world could fit into France if it were the same density as Paris. I was thinking about some kind of apocalypse in which every kind of human from all over the world was together in one place.

So imagining a global city? Yeah, basically. That’s the idea. Imagining it really dense, and from that I can create my own trends and subculture.

Does London inspire that notion since it’s such a mix of people? Yeah, it’s the whole package, really. It’s everything. I love the way that in London, there’s so many communities of different ethnicities and races and subcultures. And then if you just go a little bit out of London, you get all those strange trends—alternative kids just hanging around outside shops. I love going to really old, really crap markets that are selling utter rubbish. And then I mixed it with this kind of John Waters, 1950s Baltimore, super kitsch idea, with kittens and pastel colors and feathers. So it’s a mixture of those two things together.

That’s funny, because I don’t see the 1950s Americana thing at all. Well, I’m not trying to recreate the '50s. All these things are like the inspiration and mood and feel of the collection, and then I bring it into more modern shapes, like bomber jackets, trenchcoats, shirts, T-shirts, polo necks, turtlenecks, baggy trousers.

It’s super urban too—you have the Timbs, and the graphic sweaters, even the silk Hammer pants. Yeah, exactly.

Let’s talk about the long duster coats, because they’re so fly. Well, the first one—the cream and red one—is actually a bomber jacket over the top, and a trenchcoat underneath, and the graphics match up on both layers. It’s wool from a military company that does the wool for, like, the Queen’s guards. It’s an oversized, traditional shape, really. I like things like that; I think it’s easy. I just like a bigger jacket—one that feels like you’re wearing sort of a blanket, but it’s still a traditional shape. A lot of guys I know would be swamped in that kind of shape, but it’s to give the idea of a silhouette.

There’s a lot of volume throughout the collection. Yeah, I just think it’s more interesting. I know with my personal style, I go through phases of wearing tighter clothes, and phases of wearing massive clothes. I think that in the collection, the most voluminous things are the jackets. There’s a couple of pairs of pants there as well. I really like a top-heavy silhouette. Because it’s all about relating it to what is iconically masculine in my head.

But then you’ll have a butch coat with feminine flowers embroidered all over it. The idea for that coat was making these really old gypsy shawls three-dimensional by layering them up and cutting them. That’s what I think is part of the playfulness of this [collection]; it's kind of feminine, but it’s about the attitude that you carry it off with, and also about what you wear it with, and what he would wear it with. The jacket is cream wool, and the flowers are all done by me—every petal is hand-cut by me and then sewn together into flowers. I did these kitten t-shirts, like really kitsch graphics. One of them is an embroidery of a holy kitten with flowers. One of them is two kittens with a big flower heart around them with sunbeams and cherubs. And I can imagine lots of different types of guys wearing that kind of t-shirt, that kind of graphic, because it’s funny, it’s cheeky—that’s the kind of guy who would be wearing my clothes, I think.

What's next for you? Are you going to go full-throttle with the Alex Mullins label? Well, I will eventually, but the problem is that I need to start it with money. I made some stage outfits for a musician—TEED, or Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaur. I want to start by doing different collaborations with people, like working with musicians, artists, product designers, stuff like that. Then I can actually put more money into my own label. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to make it to show in January, but everything’s starting. I’m always designing and I’m always making. It’s in the cards.

(Top image via ContentMode)

Interview: Alex Mullins