Alex Mullins’ crossover from consulting to heading up his own label was the result of a slightly morbid stream of thought: “Quite often I get this fear of sudden death, like lightning striking me or something.”
He tells Clash, “I was lying on a beach in Greece being very full of tzatziki, chips and cheap wine, and thought – my life is too comfortable. I need to do this for myself, challenge my creativity and be my own boss. And if sudden death hits me, then at least I’ve tried my best.”
The lightbulb moment (albeit the follow up to years of dreaming, a BA at Central Saint Martins and an MA at the Royal College of Art) is almost film montage worthy. Man works hard, takes holiday, has an afternoon siesta and makes the decision of a lifetime.
A year later the NEWGEN Men board were calling him a One to Watch, and several months later he’s presenting on schedule at London Collection: Men (with a helping hand from NEWGEN Men), sandwiched between Moschino and his one time employer Alexander McQueen. It’s not exactly Disney but certainly it fulfills a fantasy.
Joining the club that counts Christopher Shannon and J.W. Anderson as alumni, gaining support from NEWGEN, the BFC and Topman, is he enthuses, incredible. “I’m extremely grateful for the panel believing in me and my ideas. Quite frankly I’m still in shock – I think it will only sink in at my presentation on Monday.”
The time spent at other labels – post degree pre ‘Alex Mullins the label proper’ – saw the designer meet new people, gain confidence and “see what creativity is worth in business”, and it shows in his AW14 collection.
While his CSM BA graduate collection was a feast of bright colours and interesting, if perhaps garish ideas (nude coloured shirts with illustrated chest hair for example), the MA AW13 pieces that followed were a change in direction.
Treading a line nearer to (if not exactly on) subtle, the collection noted fringed leather jackets, floral based applique and embroidered cowboy shirts; trousers and coats adorned with squiggly patches would be the initial sign of things to come, as his debut mainline collection took this theme and ran with it.
His sleekest offering yet – until Monday, presumably – the AW14 clothes are a mix of denim, thick cotton, wool and crushed velvet in a rich palette of camel, orange, cream and navy; thick black shapes dominate via patterns of graffiti and appliqued half faces.
For SS15 he says he’s been looking at gangs, motorbikes, trophies, time affected clothes, fly posters and sunshine, though if your prime source of Mullins knowledge is via Twitter, you’d be forgiven for thinking animals in fancy dress were involved somehow.
“Social media has become a complete necessity for every fashion house, especially new designers and it’s a fantastic tool for self promotion,” he says, admitting, “I try not to take it too seriously, but what I use social media for is showing people what makes me happy.”
Instagram fills the rest of the ‘funny quota’ while his Tumblr page is filled with personal photos of his work, friends and travels, shot on an old Nikon. “Fashion is not just about fashion – it’s also about people and being human and having something to connect with.”
Lastly we’re intrigued, who exactly does a one to watch, watch? Faustine Steinmetz he replies with conviction; “There are no words for Faustine. The craftsmanship, level of creative ideas and fantastic eye for quality are what make her the most exciting and unique designer,” he assures us. “I personally want every denim piece she has done.”
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Alex Mullins presents at London Collections: Men on Monday 16th June.