I've long abandoned my previously uneducated stance on resort and pre-fall collections, when I used to dismiss them as "filler" pieces that would barely register as a permeating memory on the brain as you flicked through the uniform lookbooks on Style.com. There's the widely known acknowledgement that those collections of course are in stores for longer periods of time on the rails and have better sell-throughs but then the discernible fact that everyone seems to be upping their game on the design front. Hows about this for a concept? A designer that does nothing but pre-fall and resort collections, on the basis that he can make what were previously afterthought filler clothes into the main event.
Alexander Lewis' first resort 2013 collection first caught my eye at the KCD London press day with its obvious embodiment of his Brazilian heritage but mainly for its attention for detailing. I'm appropriately looking at his second collection – his pre-fall offering – which is far more my speed with its wintry layers and textures. Lewis' background is as intriguing as his pre collection-only approach. Half Brazilian and Half American, he was born in Chicago, educated in England, went to uni in L.A. with plenty of trips to Brazil. His fashion education was more by way of experience than formal training. With stints assisting Andre Leon Talley, as personal shopper at Harrods, working at the vintage store Decades and pattern-cutting on Savile Row at Norton & Sons and E. Tautz, it's quite an eclectic path towards setting up his own label.
Nestled in this storied life, Lewis has found time to spend frequent summers at Aspen in Colorado where his grandmother lives and there lies his inspiration for his prefall collection here. I had to have a bit of an Aspen education from Lewis when I went to see his studio and was continuously firing daft questions at him when looking at the moodboards. He looked at all aspects of Aspen – the architecture, the natural environment, the people that pass through, the apparent Aspen "look" as well as the neighbouring Native American arts – and from that created a blend of elements that fortunately don't immediately read "Aspen", when you look at the collection. That's down to Lewis' subtlety and restraint. The silver birch trees of Aspen are turned into a silk jacquard fabric, developed by Lewis himself and manufactured in England. The V shapes seen in the cuts of the dresses and wool waistcoats are derived from classic Aspen architecture. Retro seventies one piece skiwear results in well cut jumpsuits that flare out gently. Native Indian hats were toned down into wool bowl hats and updated with plastic visors. The Colorado cowboy boot is moulded into a heeled mule with stitch detailing. The sexy Lange skiwear ads on his moodboards barely play out in the collection but it's interesting to see that Lewis' thought process had mapped out this layered appraisal of all things Aspen.
Considering the farflung locale of the inspiration, Lewis keeps manufacturing local. Save for the jewellery which were made with craftsmen in Colorado, most of the collection was made in the UK. Lewis is decidedly based in London but he stands out amongst his peers of crowded young designers in the city. His decision to focus on the precollection market wasn't just a shrewd business move but he has also give himself the opportunity to put a firm stamp on the "afterthought" of the industry's seasons.