Ten Minutes With Alex Mullins, In Celebration Of His Ellesse Collaboration
As we repeat on the daily and nightly (yes, that’s even in our sleep) – little makes us more excited than a great collaboration. Two is always better than one, right? Identities, brands, ideas – when these collide, a big bang happens. And out of that big bang – a whole new world is born. Just ask Alex Mullins. Five years after launching his own brand, the British designer is releasing his first ever collaboration. The brand on the other side is Ellesse, an Italian heritage sportswear label that’s recently been going through a renaissance of sorts. Their signature half-ball logo plays off of their long-running focus on tennis uniforms, and a clear reference to the pop-art elements present in almost 60 years of Ellesse.
Bearing all this in mind and giving it his own twist, Mullins created an experimental 30-piece collection for Ellesse. Taking three concepts: warp, delete and pleat, morphing classic sportswear pieces from the brand’s archive into a contemporary context. Capturing these clothes are the campaign images created by a pair of creatives, both of which are behind some of our favourite editorials from Ten Men’s latest issue. Photographer Till Janz and stylist Victoria Sekrier worked with Mullins on creating a set of 360° imagery, shot at the designer’s studio. Challenging the audience in the way they approach and consume a photo campaign, these can be fully experienced on Mullins’ website.
Beyond the genius of the creative output, the Alex Mullins x Ellesse experiment also resulted in a mini commercial collection of tees, sweatshirt and beanies that are going on sale on November 16th. Tracing it back to the beginning of the experiment, we spent 10 minutes with Alex Mullins. We asked, he answered – see what ensued below…
Dino Bonacic: Since this is your first collaboration – why Ellesse and why now?
Alex Mullins: I think when I first started the conversations with Ellesse, there was a couple of other people I was talking also talking to. But me and my sister used to have a lot of Ellesse clothes when we were kids, so the thing that attracted me to this project was the fact that all of our stuff was from the market. It was probably Sellesse, it was all fake. So, I thought it was a good opportunity to get my hands on some real merchandise.
DB: Good reason. How did you approach your first collab?
AM: It felt quite natural. I took exactly what I was into at the time, as I was developing my SS19 collection. Everything was kinda about doing things in triptychs so I decided to put that same practice towards creating these thirty garments for Ellesse. I split them into three categories, which was warp, delete and pleat – I kinda wanted it to look like three different effects in Photoshop. And then the exciting bit came later when I worked with [stylist] Victoria Sekrier and when we put everything into looks, we decided to mix all these sections together because it felt a lot more natural and a lot more interesting by combining these effects and making something even more unusual.
DB: This definitely comes across in the campaign images of the collection. How come you decided to do the the 360° imagery?
AM: The way me and Victoria seem to work is that we like to play a lot. So when we decided to work with [photographer] Till Janz on this project, he came to my studio and we were all talking about different ideas about how we could make it feel distorted but without distorting the clothes digitally or through like some weird mirrors situation. We were looking for a way of creating kind of surrealist imagery without messing up the actual clothes. So Till, just by chance, had his 360° camera in his bag, because it was his new toy at the moment. So, he got it out and we thought it just fitted perfectly with a new take on how we see images which connects me to the whole reason for the project because it’s basically all an experiment. In this age where we’re all so marketing-heavy, I was really excited to basically do a marketing exercise for Ellesse. I could show the brand in my vision as like a snapshot in a combination of minds.
DB: But at the end of the day they are still clothes that you actually want to wear, which is quite fabulous. As the outcome of that experiment you still got clothes that are interesting and in some ways totally wearable, despite them not going on sale. Your signature includes denim and great tailoring, but I wouldn’t say that sportswear, necessarily, is what people instantly think of when they see the name Alex Mullins. Was it any different from creating your own collections?
AM: I kind of put into practice a lot of the textile work I’ve been playing with over the years. Things like patchwork, 3D textile manipulations and ways of distorting the silhouette. It’s transferring these techniques into the sports that I found quite exciting. It really added a new kind of movement to sportswear and still ended up being semi-functional. Even though it wasn’t really designed for running.
DB: Okay, it’s perhaps not performance wear but it still reflects on function with the nylons and jerseys – you could still jog in those [laughs]. This collaboration comes as part of this big boom of brands working together, why do you think that is happening right now?
AM: I think it’s come to a point where the fashion industry and a lot of people in it are wondering where to go now. There’s a lot of glass ceilings than then make everyone ask the question of “How can I keep people interested?” We are living in a completely different world due to social media. I can’t even remember using Instagram five years ago when my brand started, everyone was still on Vine. So having everybody constantly looking – it’s not just what you see in magazines and it’s not just what you see briefly online. People are constantly researching on their phones, a lot of hours a day. The collaboration boom is here to keep people interested, to show people something that’s new and exciting, and a combination of worlds that come together.
DB: As you said, it’s been five years since you’ve started your brand. How do you think the London fashion scene has changed in this time?
AM: The industry here is changing very quickly, and compared to a couple of years ago things are getting more refined and elevated in the way that people are presenting their work. Like, a few years ago you would never see an emerging designer doing suits on the runway. It feels exciting, but like I said it’s moving quickly and I think a lot of designers are really playing with their brand because the future is quite uncertain. I guess we’re all kind of finding security in being able to play with what we’ve got, which is a great place to be at.
DB: Of course – approaching projects like this one and using it as an opportunity to express yourself. It’s not just about a commercial collaboration; it’s a brand experiment. So, five years down, many more to go. What else would you like to do?
AM: I really enjoyed the Ellesse project and so I would love to be doing more work with other brands. It’s a great experience to be able to bring back into the knowledge of your core brand. I’d like to keep playing and experimenting with what I’m doing. Potentially, I would also like bringing back something I started a couple of years ago, which was the womenswear. At the time we didn’t have the size and the capability to continue doing it but it’s a lot more realistic now because we’ve built the foundations of my company.
DB: Sounds amazing. Hopefully we might even see maybe another Ellesse collaboration soon too?
AM: Oh I’d love that!
The Alex Mullins for ellesse capsule collection launches on November 16th online at ellesse.co.uk. Photographs by Till Janz for ellesse.