Living in ten cities in six years, and drawing inspiration from an eclectic array of women - from her late grandmother to Miuccia Prada - the variety of Alexis Barrell's inspirations is evident in her quirky collections. Think dresses, separates, cycling wear and dungarees with an edgy twist; bias cuts executed with expertise are set against soft draping, while bright botanical prints and bold details add Barrell's individual stamp. It's urbanwear that wouldn't look out of place on the red carpet; a rare find and a dressy-casual dilemma saviour. Available to but on my-wardrobe.com, expect to see lots more of this label.
Could you explain the concept behind the brand?
The brand is really my own self-expression; adapted to a girl I see every day in the streets of any big city. She's cool because she's an individual and she knows what she likes. I wanted to dress women with beauty but it became too obvious. Now, I want to dress them with stories, with meaning.
Can you tell us about your design background?
I studied architecture at the University of Cape Town for three years, after which I dropped out and made my way to Paris where I enrolled at the Istituto Marangoni. I then went to work alongside the couturier Marc Bouwer in New York, in order to learn how good clothes are really made. I had always wanted to create my own brand, so I did, and I’m still learning.
Where do you look for fresh inspirations each season?
I don't really look much; the inspirations generally come to me towards the end of the previous season when I’m dying for a change of mood. In order to consolidate my ideas, I often go on a trip. I get really involved in the concept for about 3 months, dressing differently, thinking differently, and noticing things I might not have bothered with before. It's a bit nuts, and then it just goes away.
You’re from South Africa but live in London and have worked in new York, which city do feel has the greatest influence on your designs?
In the past ten years, I have lived in six cities. I don't think any place influences you more than where you come from, whether you like it or not. It's just the beginning for me in London though, and I'm interested to see what impact the city has on my work and me.
Who is the Alexis Barrell girl?
An individual who is urban, busy, curious and inspired.
What are your design signatures?
Over-sized silk shirts, easy silhouettes, wide-legged trousers, leather jackets done differently, silks and quality materials.
Who are your greatest influences?
My late grandmother, a true eccentric. My weird and colourful friend. Henri Matisse and Kees van Dongen for their use of colour. Charlotte Perriand for her sense of restraint. Miuccia Prada for everything.
What can we expect from the Alexis Barrell label in the next 3-5 years?
I wish I knew, watch this space!
What’s your favourite piece you’ve designed to date?
I designed a white slip-dress for Joanna Preiss in a Faberge film. It was risky how simple it was, but that is why I loved it. She looked beautiful, didn't need anything else.
What can we expect for Alexis Barrell autumn/winter 2013?
You can expect simpler silhouettes, less print, strong colour, tougher materials.