Alexander Krantz grew up in rural Stockholm, the son of two dancers – a hippie child. There was no fashion, no Vogue magazine, but always an interest in dress and how he could stage himself. The relationship was emotional, budding at fourteen when he realized that fashion was an actual profession, not just a passion. Alex recalls buying fabric from the local stores, only dreaming in wonderment about the life of a designer. He went on to study a BA in fashion design at Stockholm’s Beckmans College of Design. His graduation was met with numerous accolades – modestly, he barely mentions these – and a job at H&M. The commercial success of his designs for the Swedish megabrand instilled a confidence that fashion could be a real career. But, Central Saint Martins wasn’t far off. “I just had this feeling after my BA that was so,” he pauses, “I knew it wasn’t my best and I felt so unfinished in a way.” Alexander sought the school for its notoriety but also its locale, aspiring to measure his talents on an international level in London.
Under the instruction of Louise Wilson, Alex was faced head on with a sharper reality of fashion education. It was intense and straightforward, “cutting out the crap and interpreting truth in a way [he] hadn’t seen before.” She had that famous way of seeing potential and squeezing it out of her pupils; there were no shortcuts, just authenticity. This wasn’t to last – his time with Louise was cut short when she died suddenly in May 2014, a year into the MA Fashion course. For Alex, her passing donned the question, “Why am I here?” But, life is coincidental. In the wake of this loss, an invitation came from Berlin to pursue a performance art project with collaborative artist Roselinde Goldberg. The timing was opportune, a year was deferred, and in 2015 Alex found himself back at Granary Square.
In January, we met simply with short eye contact – the kind you break away from, knowing you’ve been caught staring. It sounds so cliché, but I was drawn to his aura. Asking to see his work, he responded with a coy, almost catty raise of the brow. But in true Alexander fashion, he generously invited me over and began sifting through his sketches.
Photography by Liam Leslie
Over the course of two months, thirty yards of brocade, and many, many cigarettes, I began to understand Alex in all his incredible complexities. He lives in East London in an old insurance office, but spends most of his days in the MA Fashion studio. His collection, based on ideas of truth, has taken found objects and incorporated them into standard garments. “I was collecting stuff and thinking, ‘oh, this is nice and oh, this is ugly. Ugly but interesting.’” Beat up Levi’s and vintage curtains mixed with images from the 20s, medieval costumes and 80s naff (tacky, but tasteful: think Saint Laurent AW16). He reminisces over times of padded shoulders and twisted silhouettes, which materialized in flowing velvet gowns with exaggerated, embellished necklines.
These references span centuries but are laced together by Alex’s emotion. When shuffling through his portfolio, I can feel the intimacy he shares with each image, scrap of fabric or rope. We talk magic, a buzzword for his collection. “Dressing really changed something with me,” he says. “This collection is so much about that: the magic of getting dressed. I want to infuse this kind of ritual into the garments, because for me there is this ritual in getting dressed and in that, you kind of become something.” This is where the clothing gets intertwined with the personality. His look, and he certainly has one, is a perfect balance of private and public self. “It’s becoming something in the moment together within your ensemble. Don’t you have that feeling when you know everything is right? For me that’s a kind of magical experience, a religious experience.”
Aha! There is no missing the honesty in his spiritual references. His inspiration is saturated with the idea of truth. It is personal and spiritual, going back to his childhood and the idea of staging himself. The garments themselves have a quite theatrical quality. Misconstrued as costumes, the clothes are rather transformative catalysts; when in them, you become someone else. For Alexander, he becomes himself. Each piece composes part of a look, and each look is worn with the security of perfect balance. It’s a symbiotic obsession between Alexander and his clothes; one does not exist without the other. As an extension of himself, you really only understand the two identities when they are together.
He playfully mixes his collection with his own wardrobe, giving and taking a velvet trouser here, a draped coat there. Each time I visit, he ropes me in with elegant openness. He has the most beautiful ability to bring you into his world and understand magic as he sees it. Everything in Alex’s world is wonderful. The clothes even share the same whimsical luxuriousness that Alexander emanates. His sketches are spirited waifs dancing across aged brown parchment, draped in brocades and velvets, glimmering as they move.
Magic materialized, his collection is a stunning take on age-old loungewear. The looks are layered in texture and color. Each piece has a handmade element; his specialty is dyeing and painting, which gives the garments a rich and weathered depth. Natural sea sponges sit placidly on the collars of his silky separates. A cascade of covered buttons pours over the front of a pajama, inspired by Judy Chicago. Like a young Rick Owens, Alex understands fashion as more than just a hemline. His take on gender fluidity settles itself seamlessly into the garments. “Objects of Truth is the working name. I wanted to keep objects in their original form, not too designed, not too thought out,” he says. “I’m interested in things with a real saying and people with their own opinions.” Truth is essential.
Weeks past his debut collection at London Fashion Week, Alex and I meet to go over images for his portfolio. There is an edginess to him that wasn’t there before – a rebellion perhaps. His usual flowing silhouette has been swapped for skin tight moto jeans and a cropped leather jacket. A new image is beginning to emerge. But, his soft Swedish accent draws me in and once again I am under his spell. We talk past, present (tying together the loose ends of his final exhibition), and future: “The plan is still to continue to do what I do and let things grow naturally from that.” No doubt, he will make it happen.
Words by Heartleigh Little
All images courtesy of Alexander Krantz