Designer Alexandra Michelle loved growing up in the 90’s in the city of Melbourne, Australia. It was a magical time where instead of searching through google for inspiration, you physically had to seek out what you’re passionate about and make it culturally yours.
Alexandra resides in Los Angeles now where she designs her womenswear brand ‘Objects Without Meaning’. Although she is older and wiser, the little girl from Melbourne is not too far away. She is still constantly exploring new concepts and ideas to further her dedication to create. It only makes sense that her SS17 collection pays homage to the great era of the 90’s that resonated with her and has helped develop the strong woman she is today.
We conversed with Alex about her various pursuits in design, living in L.A., and chatted about why she named her collection ‘Objects Without Meaning’.
Interview: Redia Soltis
Photos of OWM Pop Up Store: Jennifer Latour
Copy Editor: Tina Shabani
Video by Chantal Anderson for OWM
Redia:What type of jobs in fashion did you work in before starting your own brand?
Alex: Mainly corporate jobs that dealt with a lot of overseas production. I started out in Australia with a pretty indie brand and then moved to LA (and then New York) to work in more corporate companies before starting my own brand.
Redia:Why did you choose California rather than a fashion city like New York to do your collection?
Alex: Well LA is pretty fashion (laughs) I think a lot of people have a misconception of LA because it did have a bad rep for a long time as far as being a “fashion city” but it’s pretty progressive now. I really believed when I came here 5 years ago I could start a cool brand.
It definitely helps having access to the amazing resources in LA. I probably couldn’t have created something like Objects if I were anywhere else. We have everything here — fabric mills, print and wash houses, etc. It’s fairly easy to get from one supplier/contractor to another and the weather and LA lifestyle don’t hurt either.
At first I started out in New York but I soon realized that you have to compete with bigger brands to get your clothing made. It was like bidding really, because a lot of the brands there were doing intricate and/or large production and they booked up the sewing contractors. You really had to muscle your way in. It’s not impossible in New York, but just difficult.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you are as long as you have a strong vision and believe in your product.
Redia: We watched your short fashion film for your brand that came out this year. We were mesmerized by the love story, and the cinematic feel to the short film. What is the story behind the film and how did it come to be?
Alex: I collaborated with Chantal Anderson, who shot the film and is also a photographer.
Redia: And also a filmmaker?
Alex: I believe at the time she just started getting into film and I think that ‘Walkway’ was really the first time she had dabbled into putting a video
One day Chantal came in and I was like ‘Hey, I have this pre-collection that I want to shoot” and she was like “Oh cool, we should do it.’ It was literally a couple days after that we decided to shoot the film, so it was pretty on the fly. Chantal put together a loose script and storyboard —she was really the one behind the story line.
We had discussed the relationship between the two models (and real-life couple Analisa and Eugene) and capturing that connection. I loved the idea of this complicated love story — about pretending to be somewhere else and realizing the reality outweighed the daydream.
We also loved the idea of Eugene wearing the clothing too and not just Analisa. The collection comes from a masculine place, so a man wearing the clothing totally fit.
Redia: I love the way the film is lit. It gives this cinematic effect that romanticizes this dark love story.
Alex: It was dark for sure. It was definitely a fun little project.
Redia: Why did you call the brand ‘Objects Without Meaning’?
Alex: When I first started as a brand everyone was like, ‘Wait…Where do you stand on that? What does that really mean?’ I think people were confused how I could say that the object didn’t mean anything. And obviously, for me, it meant a lot. It represents nothing more than the beautiful simplicity of the materials involved and the form. Do you know what I mean?
Alex: Yeah, like why does it have to mean something? I think for me (coming up with the name) it was also like, how do you encompass what it is, have a point of view and also start a conversation? The name stands out and I like that people have
to think about it. The funny thing is, everything that I post on social media, whether it’s an object or just a photo that inspires me, ends up making sense. It works when I hashtag #objectswithoutmeaning!
Redia: By looking at your brand presence you could assume that you have a great appreciation for art. What inspires you?
Alex: I pull inspiration from everyday life, sometimes it’s from art or it could be from a simple object that is visually stimulating.
I rarely look at trends for inspiration. That is definitely not how my brain works. Fashion is always regurgitated. Everything always comes around again, the only difference is how it’s interpreted. Taking inspiration and making it your own — that is what makes a good designer.
The reality is we aren’t inventing something new. A 5-pocket jean is a 5-pocket jean. A t-shirt is a t-shirt. It’s not like we are inventing a piece that no one has seen before so it’s really important for designers to make something different from something that has always been around. It may just be just one simple element or one little deconstruction that changes the piece. It may just be the fabric selection or dropping the arm hole….or putting a dart here…or playing with volume.
I also like to draw inspiration from older images from the past because I love the history behind it. We are so fortunate to have so much material to reference. It’s important to me to be influenced by other people in fashion that paved the way because that is what inspires me to do something creative — it makes you feel alive.
Redia: Your current collection is inspired by 90’s minimalism. Can you talk about this?
Alex: I grew up in the 90s and was coming of age during that time and really loved it. Women were empowered in every aspect. They were dressing like men and embracing their masculinity. They
were working their way up in the workplace. They didn’t have to be thin. It was fucking cool!
Women have been wearing menswear for so many years but it really resonated in the 90’s. Brands like Helmut Lang brought menswear into women’s fashion during that time. There was this art movement that went into minimalism and menswear that was truly inspiring for me.
Redia: Where did you grow up in Australia?
Alex: I grew up in Melbourne. It’s an amazing small city. I think what was cool about Melbourne was that everybody was from somewhere else and it was a young place. Because of the influx of immigrants in the 70s, growing up, a lot of my friend’s parents were from somewhere else, so it was this whole new generation of kids — and it was kind of amazing. It was a clash of different cultures. It was old school and new school.
I think we were so far removed from the world that we kind of had to create our own culture. One where you grew up creatively because you didn’t have access to a lot of things. Internet was around but not how it is now. We didn’t have social media to distract us so we were more in the moment with experiences. We had to try harder to seek out things almost manually (laughs).
It wasn’t as apparent or easy, but it did help us to develop a sense of self.
Redia: What is the most challenging part for you as a designer?
Alex: I think the designing aspect comes easily to me because I’m never not inspired. The real challenge is how do I get all of it out. Sometimes you want to create so many things but you have to find the time to make it happen.
Redia: Did you always just want to be a designer?
Alex: I wouldn’t say that I always just wanted to be a designer but I knew wanted to make things. I remember discovering that around the age of 7 or 8 in grade school and it stuck in high school when I started doing fine arts. I have always been creative and artistic and I enjoy the process of conceptualizing and then materializing an idea — so designing was something that was very natural for me.
Redia:Do you think art and design merges together?
Alex: creatively, yes, but I think there is a difference between an artist and a designer. As a designer you are creating something that functions on the body; the consumer can wear, wash and live in your art. Because of this you are constantly problem solving. There are so many aspects you have to think about — picking the right components (fabric, trims, etc.), ensuring that what you create is visually pleasing and that it is also something that will make people feel good.
Redia: How much time do you spend at the studio a week?
Alex:Never enough. Every morning it’s the same thing. I just wake up, have my coffee and come into work. I don’t put a timeframe on how long I’m in the studio — sometimes that’s a good thing and other times it’s a bad thing. People always tell me I need a hobby. I feel like people that have hobbies hate what they do for a living (laughs) because it’s an escape for them. Obviously I love doing other things too but creatively I am fully satisfied. I am 100% content doing what I do for a living and letting it be my hobby too.
Redia: What is the most idealistic place in the future that you want your brand to be in?
Alex: I want to be around for decades, even centuries, just like the brands I reference and admire. I want my brand to be timeless and not just a collection that hits its peak and all of a sudden it’s gone. I want ‘Objects Without Meaning’ to be a lifestyle brand that people find inspiration from — not only from the clothes but from the concept and the art.
Redia: What do you love about LA?
Alex:I love that LA has a lot of different cultures. I am constantly discovering new things, even after living here for 5 years. I also love that people here are just doing what they want to do and no one gives a shit about what other people think.
There’s also the nature. I love how you can drive 20 minutes and be in the ocean and drive a few hours and be in the mountains. So the lifestyles we are able to have, and the weather, is just amazing.
Redia: How did you find your amazing space where your pop up store resides?
Alex: I found the space through a friend. The building has been here since the 40s and some of the original factory pieces are still in tact. It’s pretty raw but it has a lot of character. The best part is that we share the space with other creatives, so there is always inspiration floating around.
See the OWM SS17 Lookbook here