Alexa Chung on the One Question to Ask Yourself When Choosing Sunglasses
The designer tells InStyle about her new line of shades, exactly how to choose a pair, and the one supermodel who's allowed to wear hers inside.
Alexa Chung has made it her life’s mission to round out your perfect wardrobe. Last year the influencer-cum-designer set out to create the ideal sneaker with Superga. Her previous dalliances in denim — with two successful Madewell and AG Jeans collaborations — eventually paved the way for her eponymous London label of poppy party dresses, jelly shoes, perfect pencil skirts and classic box-heeled pumps. Realizing that no outfit is complete without a pair of foolproof shades, she has now launched an ALEXACHUNG x Sunglass Hut capsule collection.
Long before Instagram was a verb and the Kardashians and Hadids household vernacular, Chung made a name for herself through her style — a perennial mix of Lower East Side edge and Parisian savoir-faire, with an appropriate dose of British irreverence. As a designer, her pieces seamlessly reflect the 35-year-old’s own sartorial journey from effortless rock ‘n’ roll minx to posh, timeless, and tailored grownup.
This brings us to Chung’s new, oversize, early-’80s inspired shades. Her arsenal of retro influences came in handy when faced with the task of creating the limited-edition eyewear. “I explain my ADHD as an ever-evolving Pinterest board (everything from Jane Birkin’s insouciance to David Hockney’s stripe-y sweater) if I can keep all the tabs open,” she quips.
Chung drew inspiration from frames donned by Scott Walker, Fellini, Elvis, and Anna Karina, that she explains “feel both timeless and timely.” At $179 a pop, you can top off your look with a piece of Chung’s high-fashion antics and not break the bank too badly.
InStyle set off to London for an exclusive cocktail catchup with Chung just hours after her moody Fall 2019 fashion show and the conversation got truly shade-y. Check out the best parts below.
You had a big day today. How are you feeling?
Yes, I did. I was just keen to get it out there because I think this our best collection to date.
What has been the biggest surprised since starting ALEXACHUNG?
This was a destined path in a way, but no amount of time or planning prepared me for the actual mechanics of business. I’ve had to rise to the challenge. I thought I could just be like, ‘Oh, this is some cute stuff.’ It's like no, you are involved in HR, you're involved in hiring, firing, accounts. There's so much more mathematics to it than I anticipated. I didn't go to university but this is my business, art and fashion school rolled into one.
Why did you decide this was the right time to make sunglasses?
I particularly love them. I'm traveling all the time, and when I get off the plane, even if no one's waiting, I like to feel like I'm a superstar. Sunglasses make you look a bit cooler than you would if it was just the eye bags.
How would you describe your Fall collection?
It's slightly menacing. It's best to explain it by expressing what I was telling the models before they walked today. I said, "You know that boyfriend that dumped you?" They're like, "Yeah, yeah." I was like, "Go fucking get him!" That was it.
What do the glasses bring to the clothes?
I wanted this shape that was very early 1980s, before the era got too intense. It’s the thought of Scott Walker and Fellini on set. I wanted to add power and a bit of sex appeal. I'm interested in incredibly strong women at this point and creating the wardrobe that would help support the notion that we are all powerful, as opposed to always being trussed up and overtly sexualized to eradicate the male gaze. That's how you get dressed if you don't have to worry about getting laid.
The price point is very reasonable.
I have tried to spend more money on sunglasses, but either you don't wear them because you're scared you're going to lose them, or they break and you're livid. It’s still a luxury item, but it’s something you need every day, and you're not overpaying for something that you might sit on.
Or leave at the gym.
Where do sunglasses go to die? It's like bobby pins. I wonder where they go. Is there one man somewhere that's hoarding all of our lost sunglasses and bobby pins?
He’s probably an Uber driver! So, what power do you feel sunglasses have?
They're very divisive in that way. They make you look cooler, or like a dickhead. In the day they make you cooler. If you're wearing them at night, you instantly look like an ass. They're very divisive in that way.
Is it okay to wear sunglasses inside?
Airports and on airplanes! I was once on a plane with Kate Moss. Everyone is struggling with an eye mask or looking gross. I turned around in the night and looked over at Mossy. She had sunglasses on instead of this big mask. That is precisely what I want from Kate Moss. A total image commitment. Even cool when she's sleeping.
In the age of Marie Kondo how many pairs of sunglasses do we need?
I did Marie Kondo in my room the other day. The sunglasses didn't get the hook. I like to keep accessories close. Most of them are in a fruit bowl in my kitchen. There's a soft lemon, a brown banana, and then an array of sunglasses.
Thoughts on those little Matrix/three blind mice-like glasses that everyone is wearing?
You'll notice that my sunglasses aren't small! I know everyone likes small. I think many of those girls have the same stylist.
How do you know when a pair of shades is right for you?
I say this with clothes as well. Do they make you feel cooler than you did before you put them on? This is literally how we decide what makes the cut.
That's the Marie Kondo-Chung method.
It's straight forward. Does it spark joy? Does it make you look cooler? Do you feel less cool? Yes or no?
Do you ever think about the fact that your initial trajectory happened before social media?
I want to be like, ‘I was here first.’ Things were more organic. Fashion was genuinely a fun, enjoyable byproduct of my job as a TV host. It wasn't the name of the game for me. Even though I've made it my business now, I think that relationship remains. As soon as this isn't playful, or fun, or funny, I don't want to do it anymore.
Until then, the future’s so bright…
I gotta wear shades!