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November 20, 2017
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Alexander Lewis Resort 2013 collection. Source: alexanderlewis.eu.
Alexander Lewis pre-fall 2013
 Pre-Fall 2013 collection.
Photograph courtesy of Alexander Lewis. 

The opening day of London Fashion Week is typically a discordant marriage of excitement, energy and chaos. It's exhilarating yet tiring, fun yet stressful. So, it was with a great sense of relief that I found myself speaking with Alexander Lewis at Avenue 32's Champagne and Chocolate afternoon tea at the Grosvenor House Apartments.

There is something quietly enchanting about Lewis; perhaps it's the way he recalls his pre-fall 2013 collection as though he's telling a story. Creativity and passion is built into his every word and, spoken in his softly measured tone, one cannot help but listen.

"The Alexander Lewis woman is confident in her choice, finds enjoyment in life's unexpected places, isn't predictable and, while she loves fashion and clothing, is not a slave to trends or total-looks," says Lewis. "She is successful, professional and both youthful and mature at the same time, no matter what her age is. She wears her sex appeal on her sleeve but never in a vulgar manner," he explains.

His latest collection was lined-up with military precision in the wardrobe of the Penthouse Suite's master bedroom. It hung effortlessly upon silver rails, encapsulating a catalogue of universal experiences, all ready to be shared and interpreted. Instinctively stylish yet approachable, the clothes are unquestionably intended to be worn.

Grey, blue and lilac pastel hues found themselves disturbed in a premeditated explosion of red, burgundy and black. Luxe knitwear and sinuous blouses sat side-by-side with careful and precise suit tailoring, while shimmering brocade offered itself as a chameleon-esque camouflage. The birch tree bark print adorning this fabric is a distinctive element for Lewis this season. The combination of colour blocking, texture and pattern reminded me of something Karl Lagerfeld once said: "Fashion does not have to prove that it is serious. It is the proof that intelligent frivolity can be something creative and positive."

There are studies that show that prisoners who take part in hobby programs [...] or hitching horsehair are less likely to re-offend once they have been released from prison and are less likely to go back to jail...

The effortless wearability of Lewis' pre-fall collection makes choosing a favourite piece pretty tough, as Lewis himself can attest. His staple items from this collection include "anything in the birch bark or aspen tree jacquard, two-tone western pocket flapped crepe de chine blouses, sling back stacked heel cowboy boots, and sharp triangular or diamond shapes on softer tailored garments [such as] the Carabou dress and the Smuggler gilet." Your pick.

His Brazilian-American heritage was clearly integrated into this harmoniously contradictive collection. Lewis explains his mood board included, "the girls of Aspen from the '70s, The Maroon Bells, Nuche Indians, traditional and modern architecture from Aspen, interiors and lifestyle, vintage Lange ski boot advertisements and locals from Aspen in summer 2012."

However, the sleek tailored lines of this collection are more reminiscent of his time spent working on Savile Row. Lewis learned his craft at both Norton & Sons and E. Tautz, a time he describes on his website as being "a never ending education," in which you train "your eye to translate desire to flat paper to 3D garment, catching every nuance and centimetre of the client."

As he explained to The Genteel, his time working as a pattern cutter with Norton & Sons has also greatly influenced his pre-fall 2013 collection, from "mixing fabrics and patterns, as well as the obvious pattern crafting techniques. Most importantly, though, it trained me to really use my eyes to see the minutiae of details that are in every garment and have a knowledge of fit and form."

It's not just the clothes that are important to Lewis, however; even the accessories have their own creative narrative. Set upon a mahogany table at the end of a sumptuous double bed were three ethnic-patterned hitched horsehair bracelets; a surprising talking point among guests as they sipped on champagne. You can't help but want to pick one up, run your fingers along its grainy edge, hold it up to the light to get the full impact of the colour, and ask about what inspired them.

Alexander Lewis Fashion Designer
 Alexander Lewis in his studio.
Photograph courtesy of Alexander Lewis.

Lewis explains the bracelets are part of a prisoner rehabilitation program in Colorado: a time-consuming hobby, "it gives the inmates something to work on and own for themselves. It means they have less time to get into trouble and spend more time at a productive pursuit. Also, there are studies that show that prisoners who take part in hobby programs or arts and crafts, painting, pottery, hitching horsehair are less likely to re-offend once they have been released from prison and are less likely to go back to jail."

These bracelets are not made in any great hurry. "It takes about three hours of hitching (which is a series of knots in the pattern) to complete about an inch of finished length." Lewis decided to include these distinctive bracelets in the collection because he has "a passion for arts and crafts, as well as locally produced items." He says, "In my first collection, I hand crocheted pieces made in Brazil by women who work from home, as well as shoes and swimwear from Brazil. I felt these represented the region that the collection was focused on as hallmark products from Brazil and crochet, in particular, is a very prestigious craft from Brazil."

The story behind his pre-fall 2013 bracelets is especially important to him. As a storyteller of design, he points out that "the history of Hitched Horsehair traces back to Spain, but once brought to America by settlers was refined by the Indians and later, cowboys, Mexicans and inmates." He continues, "As far as the connection to inmates in prison goes, […] it used to be the case that you could find out which prison a hitched horsehair came from owing to the colours of the hairs, as they had to use natural dyes to create colours, whereas today you can have artificial colouring."

Despite the story behind these bracelets, Lewis doesn't necessarily foresee future collections including similar items "as it was very much part of this specific collection." However, "the notion of the local arts and craft tradition is definitely something that I wish to keep alive in the forthcoming work."

Alexander Lewis pre-fall 2013 collection
Pre-Fall 2013 Collection.
Photograph courtesy of Alexander Lewis.

With his impressive career history, which also includes time spent working as assistant to Vogue contributing editor Andre Leon Talley, Lewis is aware of the importance of remaining open to networking and inspiration in the fashion industry. For LFW A/W 2013, Lewis says he learned "about staying relevant, even if you are not involved in that particular season, or if it's menswear season and you do womenswear, you still need to be visible and stay on top of the game. You never know what might come about, who you will meet or what synergies can be created."

With this in mind, his career perspective seems strongly focused on the future; perhaps inevitable from a designer hotly tipped by many as the next "big thing". In five years time, Lewis claims he will "still be doing pre-collections, and I will have added in the other two seasons per year, thus producing the full four seasons."

His decision to focus on pre-collections is largely because "the longer time for development that I have working on the pre-collections means that I am not rushing, or making bad or regrettable mistakes that I don't have the time to avoid or correct. It also means that I can spend the necessary time to develop the custom cloths that I use. These are purely creative reasons. On the reverse side of the business, pre-collections are the most important seasons in the business, both for most established designers as well as the retailers that are selling to customers in boutiques and department stores."

As Lewis speaks, there is a refreshing sense of calm to his attitude and the impression that there is no need for urgency in his success. "I see the brand in a healthy and measured growth that happens as and when it feels comfortable and ready. The woman won't change, but depending on the world as a whole, the way she is presented could change, just as any individual could change things about herself in response to her surroundings both physical and otherwise."

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