“They say if you can remember it you weren’t really there,” is what Alexa Chung has to say about the return of the indie sleaze trend. Chung, a linchpin of our late teens thanks to her excellent sarcastic stint on Popworld alongside Alex Zane, has always looked to music to inspire her fashion collections. But her latest Barbour edit has taken her to the holy grail: Glastonbury.
“I suppose we’re all hankering for a time before everything was performance, and my preoccupation with practical things worn with more frivolous things is on perfect display at a music festival,” she says of ruminating on all the trappings of the Somerset festival, from the care-free style of the crowd to the headliners’ flamboyant stagewear. Given the chance, Alexa would relive “all of them”, and she still has remorse over missing the Blur reunion of 2009. “I’ve never known jealousy quite like it, I still can’t really hear about it,” she laments.
Drawing on the fashion of legendary performers, including PJ Harvey – “She provided the attitude, the sexy femme fatale power-babe element and maybe humour, to a certain extent” – and Ian Brown – “There was a photo I found of Ian with maracas and I loved the length of his anorak in it” – has offered some solace for the absence of Glasto (coronavirus means it has been cancelled two years in a row). Chung’s new Barbour edit – all waxy coats with an Alexa twist – is a characterful blend of nostalgic and fashion-forward outdoor gear that’s made for days spent soaking up the sun (rain) and frolicking in the grass (mud).
Over her years working with the heritage brand, Chung has learnt that “function always comes first, you can only alter Barbour’s house tartan if you’re really, really lucky, and quilted coats sell well”. It’s a fruitful formula and never gets boring for the designer, who is obsessive about navy jumpers and lives for the perfect hemline on coats. “I’m just always striving to make the perfect item, and luckily what I want changes all the time, so each time I approach our collaboration, I’m excited about something new,” she says cheerfully of what makes her tick. The magnum opus she has in mind? Finding the perfect shade of yellow. “It needs to be sophisticated and soft, but in the classic raincoat realm, like Paddington Bear shades,” she explains. “Sock in the wash colours are my fave, where they look perfect gone wrong.”
The star guest on Chung’s moodboard is not Polly Jean or Ian, but her mother. She says she has accidentally inherited her uniform of Barbour + jeans + satchel, reaching for it as her default “sleep mode” look. “That sense of comfort or instinct played into this collection,” asserts the woman who could make any mac look good. The pieces she’ll be living in this spring? The Jean jacket – “a longer version of our best-selling Pip, that’s one maraca shake away from headlining the main stage” – and the Virginia, which “would look excellent slung over a sequin dress”. Look out for her on that magical June weekend when Glasto revellers will be making up for lost time. Alexa Chung already looks the part.