Afterpay Australian Fashion Week is done and dusted for another year and among some truly spectacular collections revealed on the runways of Carriageworks, one designer in has stood out for their collection that practically vibrated with a sense of positivity, fun and a new perspective on what Australian fashion could look like: Alix Higgins.
For his debut show at AAFW, Higgins presented a debut collection that was both dream-like and tranquil yet somehow still imbued with a jubilant that energy – perhaps best described as a slow sojourn through a futuristic Australian desert via Paris where he perfected his trade of printmaking at it brand of the moment, Marine Serre. Easy to say this is courtesy of the print work that has become his signature – imagery that has become so digitally altered and warped it looks more like an alien landscape with Lynchian graphic text applied in haphazard method – but perhaps it’s more nuanced to look at the clothing as a reflection of today’s dualistic lived experience. Our desire to slow down even as our online experience grows faster than ever.
Soft spoken and looking younger than his 28 years, Higgins is simultaneously calm yet retains a baseline of frenetic energy to him – a dichotomy that is perfectly captured in his work. After all the excitement of the previous week had calmed down, Higgins sat down with GRAZIA to discuss his collection, his inspirations, and how Euphoria star Hunter Schafer wound up wearing one of his tops.
GRAZIA: You described your recent collection as an “odyssey” and “desert highway” – how did you come to find yourself in this landscape?
Alix Higgins: I generally don’t have a theme as such for the collections. They’re always so emotional and an introspective thing – and they’re an evolution. The last collection we shot it in my bedroom, and it looks a bit office-y, a bit bedroom-y and for this season I was just thinking really in the sense it was like, “I’m leaving my bedroom. I’m leaving, and I have to go out into the world.”
I was watching a lot of films and I was just thinking. Particularly My Own Private Idaho, and the characters going out into this desert, somewhere/nowhere space, and having to fight for yourself and your identity and your space in the world. So that was where this desert highway came from.
GRAZIA: Print plays such an important part of the clothes that you make – where does the dialogue begin? With this or with the silhouette or cut of the clothing?
AH: I am a very frenetic person, everything happens all at once – I’m an Aries. It all happens as I’m writing and also collaging. I don’t really draw, I do these digital collages but they kind of inform the colour, which then informs the prints.
GRAZIA: It’s been said that what you create is a direct result of or influenced by digital culture, but do you see that in your work yourself?
AH: Yeah, absolutely! I grew up on the internet. I was obsessed with Tumblr, and obsessed particularly with the idea of the internet as a space where self image, fashion image, art and also text meld together. When I was working on my graduate collection I was writing poetry about myself on the internet and my identity, and exploring my own identity, and it just kind of made sense that these things meld into one. The image, and the text, and the body all kind of become one thing. That’s where I see my relationship to the internet, but that is quite an old fashioned way of looking at the internet I guess today.
GRAZIA: Your training actually took you straight out of a small town of the south coast straight to the heart of Paris – how has that informed what you do here for an Australian audience?
AH: What I learned in Paris… It’s hard to distill, but I think I really learnt my value of being. I think Australian creatives have a bit of cultural cringe, wanting to move away from that in a sense, or maybe ten years ago that was the case and I didn’t really think I valued Australian fashion that much. Then when I was overseas all I could really think about was Ksubi, and Dion Lee, and Romance, and Josh Goot. All of these designers that I think had such a freshness and cool. That kind of breeziness, openness, just wasn’t really present anymore. It was very inspiring to me. So when I was over in Paris and people just kept telling me how Australian my work was, particularly my approach to colour… In Paris everyone designs in really bad taste colour and really serious brown. Which just isn’t me.
GRAZIA: How did you find the difference in attitude between France and Australia?
AH: Fashion is competitive everywhere but Paris… I would apply for internships and there would be just fifty graduates their applying. It was intense. They were reeling in racks of their sculptural collections and stuff, and I’d be there with my little prints. thought it’d be really cool to make a little, little magazine for my portfolio, so my friends had A2 bound books and stuff. I had this little magazine. I would literally walk in there with my lace textiles and little magazine to Margiela where I met John Galliano and was like, here you go!
GRAZIA: What was it like meet one of fashion’s legends?
AH: That was a huge moment for me. To be in a room with someone that is the reason that I wanted to get into fashion. To be interviewing and talking about my work to that person, I kind of just thought, “I can talk to anyone about my work now.” I didn’t get the job, but he did say nice things about my work and he was very lovely. I just thought, “Wow. Maybe I actually do have some legs to stand on. Maybe I do have a point of view that people are interested in.” Then I went and worked in Marine Serre, and that was really, really eyeopening.
GRAZIA: How did Hunter Schafer find herself in one of your pieces?
AH: Crazy story! So I wake up on Christmas morning to that instagram post and a million people texting and tagging me. Hunter Schafer bought that top from Cafe Forgot in New York, full price, just waltzed in and bought it. But the really funny thing, she chopped it! I think she has a fashion background, but she took scissors to it and cut the neckline. People messaged me asking “can you make me that” and I had to say no, that’s not how it came.