In the lead up to graduation, fashion student and Internet it-girl Alexandra Hackett is navigating taking her following from Instagram to the world.
Alexandra Hackett has generated a lot of buzz for a young designer, especially considering she's currently undertaking her final year of uni and is yet to formally launch a label. But like a true child of the 90s her presence on Instagram and Tumblr have made her a dot com hero. Working with unorthodox fabrics—just incase you always wanted to wear banana skins or chux cloths—she creates fun one off pieces that are as smart as they are cool. Just days after her mid-year exams she's starting to consider her life after uni, and how to bring an internet reputation into real life.
Why have you gravitated towards such unorthodox materials?
It's interesting to work with things that haven't been worked with before. In fashion everything has been done in some way, and you can always reference something as being done. If you use fabrications that aren't actually textiles it's sort of groundbreaking—I suppose.
Have any of the materials surprised you with how suitable they are to clothes?
Banana skins. I had to hand sew them but it works quite well. Because it's already a plain surface if you lay it out, that makes it easy to work with.
Do you have to treat them to stop spoilage?
My housemates actually threw out what I made, they thought it was a bit gross. I kind of like that it has a used-by-date where it's not wearable. You can put it on the body in a shoot but you can't wear it down the street.
What's been the biggest challenge?
Fabrics that are fragile. I did the space foil collection and that was insane because as soon as you puncture it, it would just tear. So your whole garment is ruined in seconds. Working with stuff like that is really difficult.
Are you working with paper in your new collection?
It's not paper it's Tyvek, which is machine washable paper.
What the care instruction in garments are made of?
I think so, it covers buildings when they're making them incase it rains. You can put it through the wash it just looks really fragile.
Is it durable like cotton?
Yeah, apparently it's really warm as well. That's what I'm trying to work on this year, making versions of fabrications that are wearable.
Are you seeking new materials to introduce to production?
I think we're sort of stuck on one road of using a specific set of fabrics. We're moving into organics and looking at natural ways of producing, but not exploring unorthodox things and asking why we use them for some things but not clothing.
Is there an environmental concern with the focus on recycling materials?
To a certain extent because I work with stuff I find on the side of the road, so it's reusing something that would have been garbage. But I don't really think about that when I do it.
So you graduate at the end of the year, is there pressure to start thinking about ways to translate this into sellable garments?
There's a lot of pressure to think about next year. I'm trying with this collection especially to work on garments that look like they're made of unorthodox fabrics but are ultimately wearable. That's the really hard thing.
Looking towards next year, is it realistic to manufacture this for sale?
I'd probably tone down a lot of my designs because the thing with working with unusual fabrics is you don't have to do much with the design. It is sellable, it's just getting it on a larger scale to mass produce.
Assumably the pieces would end up being expensive.
Sometimes the fabrication is quite cheap, but sometimes it's incredibly expensive and hard to get a hold of. Security tags are incredibly expensive, knitted pieces are really expensive as well.
We talked about environmental intent, looking more broadly are the collections statements themselves?
My collections are usually quite heavily considered and conceptual. There's always an embedded meaning. I'm really interested in social phenomena and the whole process of fashion in society. Especially in this collection, exploring the store and questioning what people think fashion should be.
How are you exploring the store?
I'm looking at signage, and the subversion of the sportswear genre into crime. I've got lots of slogans you see in stores, am looking at the way stores prevent shoplifting, and creating garments that sort of evoke this. Taking something that's not usually considered "fashion", something not usually considered in the process, and making it a focus. So using security tags, usually it's just one on a garment, it's hidden, it's to prevent you from just walking out the store. But then taking that, bringing it out and covering the garment in it. I quite like mass and excess, over the top.
Do you worry about the novelty focus on your work?
Yes. My work has been described as kitch, which at first I was kind of offended by, but I've embraced it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It's not for everyone. I think people like the look of it, they like to admire it on a body, but I don't think they actually want to wear it themselves. It's interesting, it sort of borders on art I suppose.
You use a lot of other people's logos, does that cause issues?
Yeah, I'm always aware of it. I used to have an online store that featured some appropriated things. If I started producing large scale I might approach some issues. The appropriation of logos is really interesting. A lot of people appropriate, put their own logo on it, it's kind of hyped lately. I've always been interested in McDonalds, fast food chains, and mass corporations. It's become a trend now, so it'll probably pass, even though I've been looking into it for years.
People looking at your work would think of Jeremy Scott, especially his most recent Moschino collection. It's worth noting that your McDonalds stuff was produced prior, you didn't take it for him, were you bummed when you saw it?
I was really pissed off. I don't know. I'd been doing that stuff for so long, and I was hoping to look into it for my fourth year collection. I'd been holding off. And then all of a sudden he released it. That's the way the cookie crumbles I suppose. It kind of forced me to accept people are going to do the same things as you. You've got to take it on board and think: okay I can't do that, I need to do something better. You just need to move on.
Has it ended that exploration?
Well anything I do in the future it just looks like I'm doing Jeremy Scott. Which is disappointing. But a lot of people know I did it first.
Words: Wendy Syfret
Photography: Michelle Huynh