Alex Mullins‘ imagined worlds
Sitting in Alex Mullins’s East London studio in the heart of Shoreditch, it’s clear we’re in the presence of a great admirer of the past; from the old piano that sits in the entrance, to the collection of vintage clothes on the rails that he can’t bear to throw away. “I want people to wear my clothes until they’re told they have too many holes in them,” he says.
Mullins has treated the past as a constant well of inspiration in previous collections, creating imagined worlds in which London- dwelling cowboys roam apocalyptic landscapes. “I would have been in a 70s rock ’n’ roll gang,” he muses, and you can certainly imagine David Bowie being at ease in one of Mullins’s signature heavily appliquéd and embroidered cowboy shirts and distressed denim pieces – a theme expanded on in each of his collections.
His SS15 static presentation built a fantasy world around an imagined Native American motorcycle gang living in a Malibu trailer park. But there were no black leather jackets here; instead, a wash of sun-kissed pinks, yellows and chambray. “I don’t like wearing sunglasses as you can’t see the real colours,” Mullins states, and it’s a preference which is certainly evident in his recent collection.
After studying BA Fashion with Print at Central Saint Martins, Mullins went on to complete an MA in menswear at the Royal Collage of Art. He graduated in 2012 alongside fellow London designers Craig Green and Clare Barrow, and soon after was snapped up by the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN sponsorship scheme, winning the title for their ‘Ones To Watch’ initiative.
Post-degree and pre-‘Alex Mullins’ label, he gained experience with a number of designers. From working for high-end fashion houses such as Diane Von Furstenberg to sportswear catwalk icon Jeremy Scott and esteemed couture brands like McQueen, lending his talents to and learning from such a diverse range of designers set him on the path to where he wants to be today. “They all add to the story,” he says, “my story.”
Alex’s CSM MA graduate collection employed subtle florals, nudes and noted fringe jackets. Its subtlety contrasts starkly with a MA AW13 collection that looked to heavy embroidered jumpers and fur detailing on jackets, or his Wild West Rodeo-themed AW14 which ran with heavy emphasis on denim appliqué jackets and graffiti faces.
As a distinctly modern voice in the industry, we probe Mullins on the rise of social media in fashion houses. “At first I thought it had to be taken very seriously in a business sense,” he muses. But he soon came to the realisation that these increasingly prevalent avenues of communication could be used to express the real him – that what makes him laugh and fills his days are “part of my work too.” His Instagram and Twitter accounts regale us with tales of animals and everyday observations, while his Tumblr page is a montage of old photos shot on his Nikon from a 2008 road trip across America with friend and fellow designer Faustine Steinmetz, punctuated among images of his collections. In these ways, Mullins’s personality manages to seamlessly merge with his practice, his life and work forming a cohesive whole, one speaking to and through the other.
Though his fascination with imagined characters is enduring, what type of person would he like to imagine wearing his collections? “A creative thinker who wants to find something special,” come the reply. The relationships people develop with his clothes remains core to his process, from conception, to design, to physical reality. “People who are looking for loud but not arrogant, like in old cowboy movies when no one questions it,” he continues to think aloud, “it just is how it is.”
For more information on Alex Millins’s SS15 collection, visit alexmullins.co.uk