31 May 2023
Embroidered boutis jackets, cotton veil dresses of all colors, patchwork trousers in mottled fabrics, etc. The Alix of Bohemia brand reads our dreams and imagines the ideal dressing room to be the most stylish of the summer. The magic of his style? Details as sophisticated as they are bohemian, which give an air of ultra-casual and wildly refined je-ne-sais-quoi at the same time. We love ! The cherry on the cake, Alix Pietrafesa answered all our fashion questions. Here are her answers, enjoy!
Where did you grow up ? What was the job you dreamed of when you were a little girl?
I grew up in upstate New York in a small town called Cazenovia, the oldest of four children. My mother is a ceramist, so my earliest memories are in her workshop, sitting at the base of her lathe as she made shapes in the clay. It was a childhood steeped in creative energies and I spent a lot of time outdoors using my hands – painting, drawing and making things. In kindergarten, I created paper dresses, cut them, fold them and staple them around the body. I used to drive my mom crazy because I was always cutting up my clothes and customizing things.
When did you know you would be a fashion designer?
I think it was a process of discovery… I felt very driven to create things with my hands for most of my life and didn’t really consider myself a designer for a long time.
At one point, several years after founding Alix of Bohemia, Bergdorf Goodman (Editor’s note: luxury department store in New York) displayed one of my jackets in its window, after selling a small collection I had made, and it was a real turning point for me. I see myself in front of the 5th Avenue window, at that moment, I felt like I had really accomplished something.
Can you tell us a few words about your background? Did you study in Scotland?
I spent 4 years at the University of St Andrews studying Art History. I went there because I wanted to be in Europe after my stay in a boarding school on the east coast of America. To my great surprise, there was no Arts workshop at the university, even as an option. So I bought a sewing machine as a creative outlet and started learning to sew on my own.
How was Alix of Bohemia born?
I made clothes when I was in university between writing my thesis and selling my creations to my friends. One day my mother visited me when I was at university and we went to visit an old castle. There was a portrait of Anne of Bohemia hanging in one of the rooms. She exclaimed, “It’s you, my Alix, my little hippie child, my ‘Alix of Bohemia'”. The name stuck in my head – it sounded like a girl who could go anywhere and do anything, that belonged in the adventure.
What were the early stages of your career?
For the first six years of Alix of Bohemia, I focused on creating unique jackets because they were both iconic and practical, and the perfect piece to create something unusual. They were heavily appliquéd, embroidered and layered pieces, and I wore them everywhere I went… I was living in London, then moved to New York, where people really started noticing them – I literally sold jackets on my back. Things really evolved from there… Today, Alix of Bohemia creates four collections a year, which are sold in stores all over the world.
Where do you get these inspirations from Parisian bohemians and the Bloomsbury Group? Do you have any other musical or artistic inspirations?
In college, I wrote my thesis on Alberto Giacometti and the bohemians of post-war Paris, and I studied photographs of their life and work. These artists and philosophers lived very unconventional lives, challenging the status quo and dressing very expressively – I was struck and fascinated by the idea that clothes could actually facilitate a lifestyle – that what you wear could then tell your story… I also draw a lot of inspiration from artists and icons of the 1970s, American cowboy culture, and vintage and traditional clothing.
In your daily life, what are your main sources of inspiration?
I’m often inspired by little things I observe – a leaf or a seashell, a painting or an old piece of clothing I see in a book, a color palette on the street. My eyes are wide open all the time, collecting shards of things.
I also think of my mother. I grew up in her art studio and she taught me how to be an artist, and that the pursuit of creation was worthwhile, that it could be a calling. She embodies beauty and kindness, and her passion and attention to detail inspire me.
The artisans with whom we collaborate for Alix of Bohemia are my teachers and another source of inspiration. Their mastery of fabric and their spirit of collaboration make it very easy to feel inspired.
Yves Saint Laurent said that “style is perfection from one point of view”. I’ve always loved that – as a maker you’re always honing your craft and I think the continued pursuit is as magical as it is motivating.
What do you think is a well-dressed woman?
A confident woman is a well-dressed woman. I believe that style really has nothing to do with clothes, it’s an attitude.
Do you sew Alix of Bohemia clothes yourself?
I used to do each piece for many years! I don’t make all the samples myself anymore, but I do a lot of instructions and prototypes for our makers. I am very involved and obsessed with every part of every garment. I spend a lot of time hand sewing and finishing details on pieces, which is my favorite part of creating collections. There’s something meditative about manual labor, about those final stages of bringing a garment to life. The collection lives in the details.
What are the 3 emblematic pieces of Alix of Bohemia?
Our Poet Blouse is my favorite shirt – inspired by vintage artists’ blouses and Victorian nightgowns, it’s romantic but also a bit rock and roll. We make the Poet each season in a variety of fabrics, and each is hand-printed. These blouses soften over time and can be worn simply over a swimsuit or worn in the evening for a dressier version. Our Charlie pants are another favorite, inspired by 1970s suits and the iconic Jimi Hendrix style. It is a classic flared cut with a flat front and fitted through the hips and thighs. It’s a super flattering style and my favorite summer pants. Finally, you need a jacket to wear with everything. I started my career designing jackets, and I believe a good jacket is like a good pair of boots – it can take you anywhere and gets better with age. I particularly like our Western jacket, which has a unisex fit and is therefore slightly oversized – it’s super easy to wear.
Is there a woman Alix of Bohemia?
I like to say that the Alix of Bohemia woman is in line with the rustic and the refined. She likes to collect beautiful things, has eclectic friends and is a great storyteller. She doesn’t care about having a fancy handbag or a manicure. She dresses confidently and dresses for herself. She’s an amazing hostess, she loves to travel and she’s very creative. She knows who she is and what she wants.
How many are you in your studio?
We are a very small team. I have a few assistants who work with me daily on the collections, and we work with several tailors and seamstresses locally, so there are always people coming in and out of the studio. We do a lot of our weaving, embroidery and printing by hand in India, so I’m often on Zoom to communicate with our artisans and workshops.
Why do you live in New York today? Is this your favorite city?
I don’t think I have a favorite city – I love exploring! I lived many years in Hong Kong, then I lived in London, which I loved, before moving to New York. New York is where Alix of Bohemia really started to flourish, and it’s here that I met my husband Sebastian, who I run the business with, so I feel at home here for these reasons. New York has a special energy and a very stimulating mix of people. In truth, I’m a bit of a field rat and would rather live by the sea.
Where would you like to live if it wasn’t in New York?
The south of France ! My mother is French and I feel a strong attraction for this part of the world. The rhythm, the light, the ocean… a dream for me!
What does your typical day look like?
I am fortunate enough to live in Greenpoint, Brooklyn with my husband Sebastian, just a 10-minute walk from our Atelier. I tend to take it easy in the morning (I hate alarm clocks!), have some tea, do a little meditation, and take my time. I walk to work and spend my days working on collections, sketches, sourcing, production, creative process, and fittings – no two days are the same, and that’s what I like. Sebastian and I run Alix of Bohemia together, and we always come home for lunch. It’s a good break in the day. I cook dinner almost every night, that’s how I decompress. I like any type of manual activity, be it sewing, drawing, or cooking.
What are your favorite neighborhoods/spots in Paris?
When I’m in Paris, I really like getting lost in the 6th arrondissement. I like to walk, pop into small shops and galleries, have lunch on the terrace of a café. I also love the Grande Épicerie du Bon Marché to stock up on butter, mustard, cheese and Cod Liver, my indulgence!
Which creators/brands make you dream/do you follow with attention?
I’ve had a passion for vintage clothing since I was a little girl – I collect everything from my grandmother’s Emilio Pucci and Saint Laurent clothes to antique French workwear and worn linen blouses, to Japanese silk kimonos and banjara coins from Rajasthan. The beautifully crafted clothes of the past really fire my imagination. As for contemporary designers, I’ve always loved Dries Van Noten, his sense of print and texture is sublime. I love the world he created with his clothes.
What’s your favorite book? The last series that you loved?
This is such a difficult question! There are so many books that I love. Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” has to be one of them. “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke is also a favorite of mine. As for my favorite series, I don’t watch much TV but I really enjoyed seasons 1 and 2 of “White Lotus”.
What are your dreams in general?
It sounds very cliché, but I’m really living an artist’s dream. I have the job that I created for myself: I have the privilege of traveling the world, collaborating with extraordinary manufacturers and creating clothes using the most beautiful textiles and techniques you can imagine!