Interview with Alexandra Groover
What is the first piece you remember designing?
Even as a child, I remember using nature as my inspiration to design – I was always drawing pictures of dresses that were shaped like the flowers in the garden. I remember very clearly loving the colors and shapes of fuchsias and drawing dresses based on them.
What is your most treasured piece of clothing, either bought or self-made?
Probably the dress that my father bought for my mother in the 1960s when she was 18 years old. It’s an A-line mini dress in lime green voile with a yellow abstract lemon print, empire waist, mandarin collar, and sleeves that gather in at the wrists.
Second to that is the skirt I made in my first sewing class when I was 11 years old. It’s a pretty hideous purple and blue tie-dye print, but I was so proud to wear it and tell people that I made it myself.
You just made your catwalk debut at LFW this past February. How has the response been to your label since then?
The response has been great. My first two seasons have been presented at Vauxhall Fashion Scout, and I plan on working with them for my third season as well. I didn’t expect to be given the chance to work with Vauxhall, so it has all been a blur since my first show with them.
You’re originally from California and now live in London. Are you planning on making London your permanent home?
I think London is a great place for designers to start out. It has a reputation for being a breeding ground for new talent, so the press is always paying attention. There is, however, also a lot of competition here. But I think that’s also what keeps everyone so driven. So to answer your question, I think I will be here for a while.
I’ve seen a few photos of you wearing your own pieces – do you wear them quite regularly, or mainly to fashion events to promote your label?
Yes, I pretty much only wear my designs these days. People often ask me where my clothes are from, and it’s great to be able to say that I have designed them myself. It’s definitely a great way to promote my label, especially because my collections are intended to be autobiographical.
What is your favorite mode of promotion: fashion shows, videos (like the wonderful one you presented at this past LFW), magazine/print features, etc.?
I really enjoy collaborating with other creative people- especially musicians and filmmakers to create multimedia projects. It’s nice to blend creative boundaries a bit because I think that’s when the best ideas and innovations happen.
That said, printed magazines still seem to be the best and most obvious way to reach out to a big range of people. And it is always nice to have beautiful photos of your work printed onto paper, which is something physical that you can hold in your hands.
What is behind your major use of shell-inspired designs in your Black Label and S/S 10 collection?
I am obsessed with natural sciences and the architectural structures of nature. I really enjoy interpreting these forms into clothing. I think the shell fixation comes from my childhood in San Diego, California. While growing up there, I spent many a day on the beach collecting seashells and being so fascinated by the myriad variety of their shapes and structures.
What is your favorite fabric to work with?
I really enjoy felted wool because of its weight and body. It can hold really great shapes. But crepe silks are great too because structurally, they do the opposite.
Would you ever be interested in opening up your own brick-and-mortar shop in London or elsewhere, or do you feel that an online shop and selling your label in other shops is the best for your label?
As a new designer with a very small company, I think that opening a shop is too much of a detour because it is very time and money consuming. I would rather focus on my clothing more, and running a shop would not be a wise investment of my time and money at this point. I would personally prefer to wait until I am established enough to have a strong local and international following. I think small boutiques are a great way to launch if you are a new designer because they already have their own customer following that they can introduce to a new label.
Do you see your label going more the direction of higher end and more formal pieces, as in your Black Label, or will you continue to create some more basic and seasonless pieces, as with your Grey Label?
I prefer to make luxury clothing, which I will continue to focus on. I have merged the Black Label with the Grey Label because I have decided that there is no need to keep the two separate. Black Label will now encompass both formal and casual luxury pieces.
Do you listen to music while you’re working? What inspires you the most?
I listen to a wide variety of musical genres. Lately I have been listening to a lot of ambient and drone music. Drone often has a very circular feeling to me that I can relate to with my clothing designs, which is why I chose to work with a track from Stephen O’Malley of Sunn 0))) for my most recent film piece. I think it complements the shape and feeling of the clothes quite well.
Other regulars on my play list include Philip Glass, Chopin, Swans, Earth, etc.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I go to a lot of art exhibits and antiques markets. I also enjoy photography and I try to run in the park at least once a week to get some fresh air and keep myself from going stir crazy.
If you weren’t a designer, what would you be doing for a career, and where would you see yourself living?
I think I’d definitely be an architect. But that kind of counts as design, so if not that, I would probably be involved in science in some way – probably biology or radiology. I’m not sure where I would be living if I did either of these.
And finally, what is your favorite piece from your new S/S 10 collection?
The shoulder frond dress (pictured above to the left) that I wore for my SS-10 film presentation is my favorite – it happened so quickly and I really like the sculptural shapes on the shoulders paired with the form-fitting silhouette of the dress.