At the naive age of 15, I came across a Twitter post referencing fashion designer and model Alexa Chung’s 2013 book, “It,” as the “manifesto for aspiring it girls.”
Two days later, I found myself in the back corner of a Barnes & Noble clarifying to an employee that I was searching for an autobiography, not a 500-page horror novel (because a girl dressed in a plaid skirt, red turtleneck, and handmade black beret would look like she reads books about murderous clowns feeding on children for fun). Unknowing to me the book would provide a window into a stylish reality from the multi-faceted woman, where denim dresses and ballet flats were best paired with an undeniable aesthetic of NYC party glam. I wanted to soak up every bit of this book that I could, wishing I had experienced its reign on the internet four years prior. For me, who had been connected to style this intensely only once before, Alexa Chung seemed to stand for a generation of girls with a timeless bond to fashion.
For nearly twenty years, Chung has set trends for young women that hang off her every outfit. Her Peter Pan collars and boyfriend sweater musings have been replicated en masse, turning unexpected pieces into highly coveted assets in your closet. Her grasp on the industry had proven unbreakable, and it was only a matter of time until a line of her own had manifested.
My excitement for fashion and my newest role model found the ultimate middle ground when her eponymous line launched in May 2017. Lush with hand-drawn designs, references to cult mementos like “The Shining” and the Sex Pistols, and romantic prose following the garment’s price in lieu of a mundane description of an item. “I just made things that I was missing or that interested me. I don’t know how else to do it,” Chung said to The Wall Street Journal.
The brand maintained contemporary aesthetics that fit a largely feminine and conservative silhouette, including Glasto-ready Barbour collections I promised my dad, and silk sleepwear that reminded me of my mom. There was just so much to be enamored with, so much that I wanted and was keen to get my hands on.
It’s been a little over two months since Chung announced that she was closing the doors of her line. The brand’s obituary was the first thing I saw when I opened up Instagram that morning. “It was beyond an honour to be able to create my dream wardrobe, and I would like to thank our wonderful customers for the love you sent our way — you have great taste” wrote the now ex-creative director underneath a bittersweet montage of some of her personal moments shared with the company.
Before the announcement, I believed “fear of missing out” (FOMO) was just a myth.
Call it whatever you want; divine timing, alignment, or the equivalent. If it is meant for you, and if the universe wills it, it’s yours. These mantras were a reminder that every time I skipped a party, I knew I could go to a much cooler one and have more fun that wouldn’t incapacitate me. When I would oversleep the breakfast hour on a day they offered sausage patties, my day went on the same way. I would just wait a week, and get it on a fresher, warmer hour. Missing out never fazed me, because there isn’t much to miss.
Again, I believed FOMO was a myth created to subvert hesitancy.
Well, that’s what I thought. There were so many Chung pieces I wanted, even putting money aside to later invest with. Timelessly charming clothes that I would have worn for the rest of my life, forever locked away on an Instagram wishlist. Ever since the brand announced its closure, numerous resale shops have received pieces soon to be considered “RARE ALEXACHUNG.” Every day, I’m checking to see if the ‘Barbs’ bow pumps and the ‘Grace’ or ‘Duchy’ striped dresses are listed on TheRealReal or Vestiaire.
Luckily, I was able to snag a navy blue horse sweater during a limited restock last fall. It’s now a staple in my weekly ensembles. My selfies folder can tell you that I wear it probably two times a week.
This kind of news casted a remorseful weight over my morning. After imposing my grief on my Instagram Close Friends story for a few hours, concluding with a repost of the ‘Coralie Crochet Cardigan’ off the company’s account and a heartbroken ‘sorry guys i’m so fucked over this.’ I asked my mom to describe her favorite elements of Chung’s style within and outside of the brand. In response to a screenshot of the ‘Big Fleur’ Intarsia Sweater, she interprets “The 3 C’s – casual, comfy, cozy. I’m in my mid 40’s but I think I can get away with this.”
There was something for everyone, often photographed in dreamy editorials and contemporary, pop culture ingrained campaigns. Now, there’s an Alexa-sized hole in my heart and in my closet, and I keep questioning what went wrong with the brand.
After the brand’s first ready-to-wear collection hit the runway in 2017, fans of Chung and industry mavens watched the personality-sentient line hit red carpets, Hollywood, and off the shoulders of several high-profilers. All you need to know is that the big three could be seen out and about with a piece: Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, and the designer in question. Even Jennifer Lawrence could be seen wearing the Checked Double-breasted coat in Adam McKay’s film “Don’t Look Up.“
The label’s success lasted for as long, and as little, as it did because of its roots in celebrity culture. With her history as a TV presenter and “it girl” notoriety, someone as connected and naturally chic as Chung created quite the following for herself. Droves of young women who had grown up idolizing Chung and manipulated their wardrobes to resemble hers had been very animated about the line, yet unsurprised the endeavor had finally been established.
In turn, attention from copious fashion editors and PR lists has given her name the Midas touch. Everything with her name on it sounds more stylish, doesn’t it? With a name that has become synonymous with a resume of trendsetting and turning mundane products into overnight bestsellers, a large inventory of the company’s apparel had escaped out of the price range of her predominantly young following.
But is this entirely her fault?
Though Chung had been the creative director of her namesake brand, she wasn’t the head designer, let alone managing the business aspects of the company. Edwin Bodson, the brand’s managing director, had outlined the brand as “high contemporary” during its launch. Having a few shows during London Fashion Week, and even a coveted on-schedule show during Paris Fashion Week, hopes for the brand’s financial success had been very high, with a roster of luxury stockists like Net-A-Porter, Bergdorf Goodman, and Mytheresa ready for international retail. Peter Dubens, Chung’s main backer, had invested personal wealth into the brand back in August 2021, a year following reports of financial loss due to an ill-fated consequence of a pandemic. Despite all of this, customers were quick to pick up on the high-valued prices that came with the products
After hosting Netflix’s “Next In Fashion” alongside Tan France, which premiered at the end of January in 2020, any projected income that came in conjunction with the show’s promotion of the brand fell through a month and a half later after COVID-19 hit.
It’s been questioned if she had done a collaboration with a less well-known and affordable company that profits would have increased. And where she doesn’t plan on writing off a further career in fashion — “my enthusiasm for fashion remains undimmed,” Chung said — her transatlantic style has proven amiable for nearly two decades, and I would guarantee a few more. I have no doubt that she will one day be appointed as the creative director for another contemporary, amiably dainty brand like Prada or more collaborations with Madewell, but the optimist in me is hoping that the “Sign up to receive the latest news from Alexa Chung” email link on the semi-defunct website might foreshadow a potential comeback for the brand.
In the meantime, I’ll be bitterly daydreaming about eloping in some European countryside wearing the Phoenix satin midi dress once I can find it listed somewhere.