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Alyx SS16Courtesy of Alyx

Alyx: the LA-inspired label that’s blowing up

The brainchild of Californian native and former music industry creative director Matthew Williams, Alyx is quietly taking the fashion industry by storm

In two seasons, Alyx’s Californian-born, New York-based creative director Matthew Williams has achieved more than most emerging designers could imagine in their wildest dreams. He’s collaborated with Nick Knight, built up an enviable stocklist (which includes MACHINE-A and Dover Street Market along with other retailers around the globe), and gained a diverse but enthusiastic clientele. Williams has done this in two short seasons, without a single runway show or presentation and the fanfare that comes with it, and without a fashion degree – he was rejected from Parsons. Though AW15 was his debut collection, the designer has a wealth of experience to his name. A former creative director of Kanye West and Lady Gaga, he’s worked with Miley Cyrus on a music video and Alexander McQueen just before his death.

For Williams, making the transition from music to fashion was a coup. Naming the brand after his two-year-old daughter, he’s been quick to establish his signatures. Describing his aesthetic as “modern classic”, Alyx is sporty, streamlined and achingly cool. Its staples include leather; undersized, sliced apart biker jackets; other outerwear fitted with buckles (from roller-coaster seat belts) and functional zips. “ALYX epitomises what every womenswear brand should be,” says Stavros Karelis, buying director of MACHINE-A. “It’s got a strong identity, beautiful shapes and silhouettes, extremely well-researched use of fabrics and materials with attention to every single detail. It has appealed to such a diverse audience with cool kids, industry insiders and celebrities buying the collection.” We meet the creative mastermind behind this burgeoning label. 

What are your main references in your work?

Matthew Williams: I always refer to my wife Jennifer Williams’ personal style. We both grew up in California and are inspired by our adolescence, skateboarding, ditching school to drive around blaring music from our cars and going to amusement parks. 

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Matthew Williams: I would say modern classic. This project is super personal – it’s not part of a genre or something like that. It’s just pieces and ideas that I have some personal attachment to. I’m always thinking about whether my pieces can stand the test of time. Because I want them to. So, I’m not really looking at trends or whatever, I want people to be able to wear something from the first collection and the tenth collection and for it to be one continuous idea.

What kind of woman do you have in mind, do you have a muse?

Matthew Williams: Yeah, I mean obviously there’s always muses like Molly Bair who we shot for the SS16 lookbook. But there’s also other girls too, just friends of ours, friends of my wife, and my wife is an eternal muse of mine. But it goes through all ages and demographics.

What do you like about Molly?

Matthew Williams: I like how she has an elegance, but how she has an awkwardness too. I’m sure for most of her life, she wasn’t considered beautiful by her peers. She has a strength too which comes from that, and then becoming a supermodel and people loving how you look. I just like her energy. She really has a special aesthetic that I like.

“(My wife and I) both grew up in California and are inspired by our adolescents, skateboarding, ditching school to drive around blaring music in our cars and going to amusement parks” – Matthew Williams 

So what musicians did you work for? I know you worked with Gaga…

Matthew Williams: Oh, everybody, I’ve worked with Rihanna and Kanye West – those are probably the more notable ones…

Can you tell me a bit about your work with Kanye?

Matthew Williams: He mostly had me working on his music videos, his stages. I helped on the whole Yeezus album, all the videos he did with Nick Knight.

How has your experience in the music industry informed your approach to design?

Matthew Williams: What I really liked about working with musicians was that clothing was about fantasy. They were also made to be seen on stage, in artificial light and I really like that idea of clothing taking on a different life than what you see in the day – whether on stage or in a nightclub. When I was using sequins and metallic fabrics in my SS16 collection, that’s what was going through my head. So there would be fabrics that looked so bland in daylight but then you put them under a spotlight and they completely transform.

What else do you enjoy, other than fashion?

Matthew Williams: I love collecting books, I’m a really big photography book collector… I have a massive library in my studio, because when I first started working in the creative profession we didn't use the Internet for research, so all my mentors that I worked for had the same book collections, so I just started mirroring that at 18 years old and started making my own collection… I love Bruce Davidson, he’s probably my favourite photographer, his books Brooklyn GangEast 100th Street and Subway.

What's your next move?

Matthew Williams: Right now I’m just focused on building a great AW16 collection and continuing to build the DNA of Alyx.