Can a designer be nostalgic, futurist and of the moment all at the same time? It’s a coaxial of contradictions that Alix Higgins, who has just taken home this year’s Emerging Designer Award at the 16th Australian Fashion Laureate, seems to be managing just fine. It also could be the secret to how he has become one of the most coveted cult labels on the market today.
Although he may not be cult much longer at the rate of his successes. Seats at his runway shows at Australian Fashion Week have become one of the most in-demand of the annual event and pieces from his collection sell out as fast as they drop online. The spotlight that seems to be growing with ever more intensity on Higgins, 29, is only going to increase awareness and demand for the brand he operates out of his apartment in Sydney’s Potts Point between teaching the next generation of designers at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Fresh from accepting his award, we spoke with Higgins to see what he thinks the future holds for him and his namesake brand.
GRAZIA: You were up for this award last year. Did you at any point think that this year it was going to be you?
Higgins: No. Never. I didn’t because I know last year there were a few nominees that had already been nominated the year before, so I didn’t think like, oh, my second nomination, I’m definitely going to win. Nothing like that. And also just comparing my brand and where I’m at to who won last year, I was just like, it’s completely in different places in terms of being emerging. Also, I’ve never won an award before! It’s not something that I really think about as such, but it’s so exciting.
GRAZIA: Despite the attention you’ve accrued at both shows at Australian Fashion Week and having the likes of Grimes and Hunter Schafer both wearing your product, you’re still described as a cult brand. Is that the right term to describe yourself and your audience?
Higgins: I like it. I have a really strong client and fan base and the people that are into my brand are really quite obsessed with it and obsessed with the evolution of it. I held my first pop-up a few months ago and it was my first time meeting a lot of these clients face-to-face. Some people were so aware of the minute changes in fabrication from season to season or this shape being introduced then and now it’s back in this thing. These people were really paying attention and that feels like what a cult brand should feel like: underground and small but with a tight knit community around it. I like that a lot.
GRAZIA: And will this change? It seems inevitable that you might grow beyond the definition of a cult brand.
Higgins: Yes, most likely. But it’s something that I’ve really been preparing for since the beginning and each season have challenged myself to as much as keeping it small and slow. I do try each season to learn from the previous season and also streamline my processes, streamline the production, streamline the sourcing, dedicate the right amount of time to the right things that need it. I think I’m ready for a steady growth.
GRAZIA: You mentioned that the brand has grown into a tight-knit community. What do you think it is about your designs that has created such a devoted audience?
Higgins: I think that one of the things that is very unique to me and my brand is this sense of emotion and poetic directness. I don’t think that luxury is really changing and what we receive from brands has become so ubiquitous. It’s really hard to find something special and unique at the moment. I think what you can’t really get is this emotional aspect, this pure unfiltered, raw emotion, which is what I’ve always not even really tried to put into my brand, but it’s just what my brand has always been about instilling that and exercising that from myself and putting it out as a way for me to process my emotion in my life. And I think that people just really love that more than I could have ever predicted in that it’s really the cornerstone of my brand and something that sustains my brand and that people keep coming back to me for. I think that that is something that sets my brand apart in a sense.
GRAZIA: What are you listening to at the moment while you’re in the creative process? What’s on the Spotify playlist?
Higgins: Oh let me pull it up! A lot of Caroline Polachek. A friend of mine just showed me a band called Jockstrap that I really love. It’s very bizarre. I’ve been listening to Olivia Rodrigo, yes a 19-year-old’s album about heartbreak, but I think it’s really beautiful. And I’ve been listening to a bit of Morrissey as well. I’m not really into male vocalists normally.
Check out the complete list of winners from the 2023 Australian Fashion Laureate.