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‘Archive By Alexa’ – Alexa Chung X Marks & Spencer: A Review

Wednesday saw the launch of beloved British brand Marks & Spencer’s collaboration with it-girl Alexa Chung, for which Alexa was invited to ‘rediscover’ the brand’s archive, and design a collection bringing it back to life. As a Fashion and Dress History student, I was intrigued and excited to see what Alexa would produce.

Using original M&S garments as well as catalogues and advertisements found at the M&S Archive in Leeds, Alexa aimed to take pieces from the company’s rich history (which dates back to 1884) and make them relevant to 2016. As Alexa states, “I have always had an affection for Marks & Spencer. I am thrilled to be part of this special and unique project. There was something very touching about looking back through the British fashion and social history for which M&S is synonymous”.

Steve Rowe, Executive Director of General Merchandise at Marks & Spencer comments; “It was a hugely insightful experience allowing Alexa full access to our Company Archive. Marks & Spencer’s history is vast and quality design has always been paramount; therefore using our expertise and classic designs and Alexa’s unique eye and approach to style, our collaboration was born. A new womenswear collection, curated by Alexa, with heritage firmly at its heart.”

The collection consists of 32 pieces, all named after the most popular names from the year of Marks & Spencer’s birth, 1884, such as ‘Harry’, ‘Eliza’ and ‘Ada’. They are inspired by M&S garments ranging from its beginning, up until the 2000s and encompass M&S as a British heritage brand. Some are adapted from menswear; for example the ‘Edna’ shirt was inspired by a 1940s men’s shirt and turned into a baggy women’s shirt dress that epitomizes ‘boyfriend-shirt chic’.

Alexa has done a fantastic job of using her impeccable eye for style to adapt clothes of the past for a 2016 customer. The ‘Harry’ shirt, which is also sold as a dress, was inspired by a 1980s New Romantic style shirt; an ‘80s trend which looked back to the extravagance of Victoriana collars and frills. This piece in particular feels very 2016, sitting perfectly with the Victoriana trend for Spring/ Summer 2016, as shown by the likes of Erdem and JW Anderson.

Cleverly, through her use of classic and simple designs, Alexa has designed a collection that will appeal to not only vintage lovers, but anyone with an eye for classic wardrobe staples. The accessible price point is another bonus, with pieces ranging from £19.50 to £89.

M&S state that this is the first of many in the ‘M&S &’ series, what they call a “sequence of unique, exclusive collections in collaboration with some of today’s most exciting designers, brands & fashion icons”.

Thanks to Alexa and M&S, everyone can now have a piece of British heritage in their wardrobe. Goodbye, Student Loan…

To see the full collection, head here.

By Wendy Lowe

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