Buro 24/7 Interview: Alessandra Rich
An exploration of elegance
The atelier of Alessandra Rich is located on a quiet road in London – 105 Mount Street – in the exclusive district of Mayfair. When Italian-born Alessandra moved to the city with her husband, a British art dealer, this was a location that offered just a hint of fashion.
Now, her studio literally sits sandwiched between Céline, Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs. In such close quarters it's difficult to uphold a location without any fuss or fanfare, yet in a discreet second floor apartment sits the Alessandra Rich studio where guests such as Meryl Streep come for fittings. The same principle has been adopted over the five years Alessandra has shown her collections during each season's fashion week, which take place in a very cosy atmosphere within a hotel room in Paris.
And so the story goes that quite unexpectedly, Natalie Massenet stopped at The Ritz for an early presentation, stumbling upon a treasure chest of style and didn't leave before buying the entire collection for Net-a-Porter. This was the turning point for Alessandra, who had enjoyed a career and business in selling real estate and quit to do what she loved instead – fashion.
Hailing from a small town north of Venice, the future designer had a childhood surrounded by beauty and grew a love for art. "My other studio is located in Milan, and I buy Italian fabrics, but I cheat with the lace – for which I prefer the French producers," says Alessandra. "It is of course difficult every week to fly to Milan to control the process, but I'm used to a life between two countries. "
The designer knew from the very beginning of her fashion journey what she wanted to offer women. "My way is new – dressing down to dress up," as the main rule, she declares. "Girls used to wear short lengths for dinner parties and of course cocktail dresses are short, and people assume that anything to the length of the ankles meant official events only. I proved that full length could still look appropriate for less formal occasions. I always reassure my clients that in the end, it's just a couple of extra inches, which certainly distinguishes you from the others."
"It's just a couple of extra inches, which certainly distinguishes you from the others"
The designs quickly became commonplace on the red carpet with Hollywood celebrities declaring themselves fans. First up came Diane Kruger in a mint green lace number, "I did not expect to see her in my dress at all. She just bought it, can you imagine?" Says Rich in genuine amazement. But the biggest surprise of all came in the form of a call from Meryl Streep's stylist, who dressed the Oscar winning actress in Alessandra Rich for the Golden Globes. "We were approached by Meryl's team asking for two dresses; one black, one white." Rich explains, "She then flew here to London for a fitting. But we never discussed what the dresses would be for. She could have worn them to a picnic for all I knew. Imagine my surprise when my husband and I started looking through images of the event and stumbled on a photo of Meryl Streep, statuette in hands, wearing my dress! We were amazed."
In the five years since her brand has been in business, Rich is yet to create a short dress, will she ever? "Never say never" she answers, "I just still find it fun and exciting in this niche." For her latest collection, the designer referenced "bad reputation" as her starting point, and it's dedicated to women like herself; breaking stereotypes. "When I was working on the last collection, I thought about personalities like Empress Sisi of Austria, who violated the rules and tried to change the order. Hence the 'wrong' and out of the ordinary dresses with sleeves, and overly large bows." However, the designer prefers much more modest clothes for herself – more often than not seen wearing all black... Until Buro 24/7 bumps into her at an intimate dinner later that night, wearing a black lace dress to the floor over biker boots.