To the Point With Designer Alessandra Rich
The London-based designer discusses the micro and macro elements of her growing brand.
Italian-born designer Alessandra Rich recently visited Toronto for a trunk show at The Room at Hudson’s Bay Queen Street, where she showed pieces from her Fall/Winter 2017 collection, an intriguing mix that was in turns both ladylike and provocative. Having first presented the collection by appointment in Paris, European luxury is at the heart of Rich’s brand, from French lace to Italian silks and manufacturing.
Alessandra sat down with The Point to discuss her design process, the challenges of growing a business and the essence of her personal style.
Your collections are full of contrasts (textures, colours and patterns). Can you talk about your approach to choosing materials?
My collections always start with seeing the manufacturers and archives of textiles in Italy. I’m Italian, but have been living in London for 23 years. Everything is produced in Italy and the silks come from Lake Como.
So first, I choose something from the massive Italian textile archives that go back years, even centuries. I pick up something, I change it the way that I like and propose to use it. Then they print a piece of paper from what I approve and send a little piece of fabric. It’s a long process to arrive at your own pattern.
The laces come from Chantille in France; some in this collection I had embroidered. The bouclé comes from Italy.
Do you design your collections based on a narrative?
The story of preparing a collection always starts with a woman, either a fantasy or a mix of women that I know. Real women can give me a suggestion when I need one, something for lunch or dinner, for example. But the theme for each collection is a woman and how I would like to see her dressed.
From there, I think it’s easy to go with your mind and say, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if she had these pieces? Let’s add another jacket!” Maybe she goes to the beach and we do hot pants for her. It’s very entertaining to create. You can carry on and on, but eventually you have to stop, shoot the look book, present the collection in Paris, and what’s done is done.
When you started your line, the silhouettes were all very long. Can you talk about the brand’s evolution to include a wider range of pieces?
I think you have to expand. I come from a background with no fashion study. I think if I hadn’t started with something so specific, I wouldn’t be here now, because I would have been lost in so many beautiful other brands. This [longer silhouettes] was something that was recognizable. In the beginning, I was selling in three places; now we sell in 70. I’ve prepared myself personally to expand, and I feel more secure in what I’m doing. It takes time to develop. Before there were also only lightweight fabrics, but I needed to grow. It was an organic development.
Have you been to Canada before?
Yes, three days in Vancouver. It was beautiful! I hope to come more often. I took so many pictures while I was landing in Toronto at the Island Airport. To land on the water — blue sky, fresh air —it was beautiful. I will discover more, hopefully Montreal soon.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up and go straight into the kitchen and have a cup of tea. I don’t know how many teas I drink per day, but I cannot even talk unless I have maybe two. Then, with my tea and a porridge, I open my computer at home; I live on Mount Street in very central London. Below my flat is my office. The closeness is super dangerous: I spend much more time in the office than in the flat.
Could you tell us about your beauty regimen?
My beauty routine is super basic. I don’t wear makeup. I wear a thick moisturizing cream by Avène. I do a little bit of eyebrows and more-or-less that’s it.
Do you have go-to pieces for party dressing?
I’m always in a rush, working until the very last minute. My husband usually texts me to say, “Alessandra! You have to be ready in fifteen minutes!”
I have, obviously, all my pieces. Some are made for me in the simpler version. So if something comes in lace, I want it in plain fabric, usually black. I also like vintage bijoux. That is the fancy part of my outfit. I like it a lot.
What music is usually playing in your studio?
I’m lucky because Anna, our in-house press person is also a DJ, and her boyfriend is a very famous DJ, so we go everywhere from classical to ’80s. It depends on the mood.