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Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity

Alex Wolfe’s graduate collection, titled ‘The Boredroom,’ challenges traditional menswear codes, expressing playfulness and sensuality

Native Londoner Alex Wolfe sees fashion as a path to self-discovery. “As a child, I gave my parents a hard time constantly running off to explore. I had a wild imagination. I still like to think I am like that today. It’s important to maintain a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world.”

Check Alex Wolfe’s portfolio on Pinterest

Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe, Final Collection
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity

Seven years into studying fashion design at Central Saint Martins, Alex presented his magnum opus earlier this year. Through his MA collection – aptly named ‘The Boredroom’ – he communicates a satirical and dystopian exploration of ‘Britishness’ and ‘masculine identities’. Besides expressing a strong point of view, Alex made sure the garments showcased commercial appeal too. By challenging these stereotypes and portraying a playful dissection of the mundane nine-to-five suit worn by ‘average office men’, Alex seeks to encourage men to simultaneously express playfulness, sensuality, and absurdity.

“I used to come up with crazy ideas in the beginning but I couldn’t execute them well. I feel like I did my fashion education backwards.”

His interest in portraying identities is one that dates back to secondary school. “I was a bit of an outsider,” Alex states, “and fashion is about identity. This was my way of self-discovery. I really started to get interested in fashion when I understood it can affect how people behave, react, or feel.” This emotion-driven fascination is something he has manifested: coming straight out of art school, he was more interested in the concept than in the clothes themselves. “I had no idea what I was doing,” he confesses. “I used to come up with crazy ideas in the beginning but I couldn’t execute them well. I feel like I did my fashion education backwards: after my BA collection I felt drawn towards the idea of ‘creating garments’, because once I understood the rules, I saw the possibilities, the opportunities to push my own work further.”

Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe, Research and Design Development
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity

“In fashion, unlike film, not only can you be moved by a story but you can also wear it, become it.”

Asking Alex about his creative process, he tells me it “feels a bit like solving a murder mystery.” Mapping out his research on the wall – a mixture of both found images and personal photography – he quickly detects his ‘key evidence’ but needs to get deeper into the story to figure out what ties it all together. This visual approach is one that is tied to Alex’s interest in film. During his placement year he interned at SHOWstudio, where he was able to take a step back from the system and take on a different point of view. This fresh perspective flipped the switch, “Because in fashion, unlike film, not only can you be moved by a story but you can also wear it, become it.”

Whereas the ‘key evidence’ can easily be translated to sketches – a part of the process Alex very much enjoys – it doesn’t take too long before he feels the need to translate his ideas into 3D. “And then it’s a relationship between the two.” When inquiring about his feelings towards programs such as CLO 3D, Alex tells me he’s never used pattern software himself. “Sometimes with digital work the result can end up quite flat and lifeless. I feel that physically draping on a mannequin is more instinctual and maintains the energy of the work.”

Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity

This opinion on digital versus physical is consistent throughout our conversation; one can never fully replace the other. “Although film is a great way to present fashion, I believe physical shows will return. Imagine sky-diving on screen versus in real life – not all fashion has to be or is that exhilarating, but some of it should be. One of the most exciting memories I have is backstage at a show, when your stomach twists with anticipation, and you can feel the music shaking your bones.” With ‘going digital’ being the only option for many designers during these unprecedented times, all have been trying to find the optimal way to present their work online. A job easier said than done, with a public consuming media at such a rate that even the most breathtaking images would struggle to scratch the surface. “I figure that consistency is really the only way you can stand out,” says Alex.

“Producing two collections per year. “Working at this pace feels right to me, anything more and you may risk compromising creativity. If the focus shifts too much to financial gain then it’s just a number’s game – producing for the sake of producing.”

That being said, he didn’t feel restricted by the lockdown. Alex confesses he “Feels freer working alone from time to time”, although he couldn’t do that forever. “Being in a small creative team is energising and it’s healthy to bounce ideas off one another.” When interning at Walter Van Beirendonck, Alex learned he rather enjoyed working in a small team like his, designing and producing two collections per year. “Working at this pace feels right to me, anything more and you may risk compromising creativity. If the focus shifts too much to financial gain then it’s just a number’s game – producing for the sake of producing.”

Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity

His thoughts on the big-business industry? Although Alex hasn’t yet worked for any large luxury house, he has gotten familiar with the system. “Themes of wonder and escapism are what drew me to fashion, and sadly you see less and less of that now. It’s like dreaming has become less relevant, which is kind of tragic. The demand for fashion now is that it has to be much more practical, which is totally right, but that shouldn’t stop us from being creative. That’s what moves things forward and keeps things exciting – take more risks!”

A strong sense of imagination acts as a red thread throughout his graduate collection. Naming his opening look ‘The Chairman’, Alex took note on dadaism and, in spirit of objet trouvé, turned a common object into something peculiar and humorous. When you remove the chair, the wearer is left with a bizarrely-shaped warped T-shirt. “There is a conceptual story in that look that underpins the entire collection, but you could also say it’s just a man with a chair on his head, and that’s fine too.”

Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity
Alex Wolfe on chairmen and playful masculinity