“It has a joyful vibe. It’s a glamorous collection, for a versatile wardrobe,” the designer and A-lister favourite Alessandra Rich says of her spring/summer 2021 offering. “You can find velvet party dresses, sequin tweed tailleurs, floral negligées and matching bikinis. Everything you need to feel confident and seductive.”
Glamour, à la Allesandra Rich, is an exquisite rose-tinted affair that’s provocative and prim in equal parts. Her label’s vintage inspirations and tongue-in-cheek celebration of ’80s/’90s maximalism has won her fans that include British royalty, such as the Duchess of Cambridge, stars Rihanna, Beyoncé, Meryl Streep, Sienna Miller and Sarah Jessica Parker, as well as the likes of Samantha Cameron, who wore Rich on an official visit to the Obamas when her husband was Britain’s prime minister.
With her girlish candy hues, twee-with-a-twist matching sets and all that elegant, flashy eveningwear, Rich has created a very defined aesthetic in a short period of time. The London-based, Italian-born designer is in the midst of shooting her very first pre-autumn collection when we speak, just after the release of her delightfully titled Euphoria spring/summer ’21 release.
The typical Allesandra Rich woman is both “confident and seductive”, albeit sugar-coated and with a wink. There’s a delightful irreverence that goes with her clothing. This goes for that spring/summer ’21 collection, which she designed while stuck in confinement because of the pandemic.
During a tough year for all, Rich coped by being productive: “I never stopped working, I changed my plans and my tools, of course, and I miss all my ‘live’ relations, but I also had new energies around me,” she explains. “I think everything should strengthen us. It’s still tough, but we’re all waiting for the Spring.”
These bold, colourful floral dresses, girlish bikinis and swimwear worn with sheer cover ups, lingerie inspired pieces, midriff-baring looks and cool ’70s-style pantsuits – it’s joyous fashion that we’re all dying to indulge in after a year of restrictions. The spring/summer 2021 Allesandra Rich girl is amused and amusing, and, as the collection notes express, “adventurous, fearless and self-confident. She never looks back – all that she asks out of life is that it be a constant and unending euphoria. And the rest is lust and stardust.”
Rich, for her part, begins each collection by always starting from “the idea that women have fun, and feel self-confident and seductive with fashion.” And while that attitude might have garnered her a rather coveted, well-heeled celebrity and royal fan base, she argues that the outfits are interpreted by how the individuals wear them. “It’s always the woman who makes the difference,” she says.
Humour-hungry Brits have been particularly taken with Rich’s quirky sensuality, and how at times it pokes fun at the buttoned-up aristocratic inspirations that her outfits reference. Princess Diana, who was an expert at wielding the power of style, has provided inspiration for the designer – and with so many eyes glued to The Crown on Netflix, the late princess’s influence on style is a timely one.
The designer remembers how some of her formative encounters with style proved to be so impactful. “I always noticed the outfits of my mother’s girlfriends who’d come over for tea on a Sunday,” says Rich. “I was fascinated by observing the details of everything they wore – it was like a safari in the living room.”
Vintage references from eras past (lately a bold ’80s Dynasty look has taken hold) provide plenty of room for creative exploration each season. Rich often roots through her mother’s wardrobe for inspiration – “It’s a treasure chest,” she quips. And then there are “all my interests: cinema, art, flea markets, city streets, memories” that provide a personal touch to her designs.
“I believe in a cosmic and powerful femininity. It’s important to consider what’s femininity: to me, it’s more about self-confidence than about a deep neckline.” It’s with a deft hand that Rich’s outfits achieve a delicate and well-humoured balance between prim and provocative. Here’s a designer that loves “the idea of this delicate balance, because it’s like a secret or a mystery but it can also be broken sometimes. In fashion there are no rules.”
With unisex fashion becoming all the rage, there’s something quite daring about Allessandra Rich’s femininity. And after a year of staying at home more, we are expecting a hard rebound in women’s appetite for glamour and maximalism as the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. Her brand really speaks to this.
“I believe in a cosmic and powerful femininity, which is more about self-confidence than about a deep neckline”Alessandra Rich
“I believe in a cosmic and powerful femininity,” says the down-to-earth designer, who this season often wears a rock ’n’ roll black leather jacket from her current collection. “It’s important to consider what femininity is. To me, it’s more about self-confidence than about a deep neckline. You can be sensual in different ways and outfits. It’s one of the reasons why I love lace – it’s a second skin, a game of transparency and mystery.
“That’s the point: femininity is a mystery,” says Rich, who thinks that, in a sense, women will always want the same from fashion: “fun, self-confidence and seduction” and, perhaps now, “a healthy planet”.
Although many of her preferences might be rooted in eras past, when she thinks of maximalism she usually envisages young people, whom she calls the prophets of the future of fashion. “I’m fascinated by their ever-changing style: expressive, maximalist and colourful.”
Her sense of luxurious fabrications and beautiful craft also gives this designer a huge edge. All her clothing is made in Italy by the “best hand-crafters”, whom she knows personally. Her native country is, of course, synonymous with style expertise: “It’s a treasure trove of relations, know-how and expertise. It’s essential for the brand,” she adds.”
“Everything is influenced by my Italian roots. Inspiration and passion are important, but so are the tools you need to create something beautiful, all of which I can find in Italy.” Not a formally trained designer, Rich worked in art, real estate and home interiors before launching her eponymous fashion brand in 2010. More than 10 years on, she’s new a regular A-lister and red-carpet favourite, who’s found in top stockists such as Harrods and Net-a-Porter. She’s developed a distinctive aesthetic, rooted in seductive vintage-influenced floral and embroidered dresses, and glamorous, glitzy matching pants/skirt suits, along with candy hues and bold shoulders in swathes of silk, wool and dramatic drapes.
Her sense of playfulness, too, has followed on in Rich’s very first pre-autumn capsule collection, the pictures of which have just been released; the collection is out in June. It’s a line-up grounded in freedom and an irreverent ’70s vibe, with plenty of easy separates, such as cropped tees, cool denims, striking knits and easy day dresses with a daisy print.
Rich’s penchant for romanticism with a modern edge, combined with luxurious fabrics, girlish embellishments and svelte silhouettes, makes her a natural go to for party and occasion-wear, but as the pre-autumn line-up shows, there are plenty of inviting casual pieces in the designer’s repertoire.
With her fashion star firmly in ascendency in the 11th year of her label, we’re loving the positivity, wit and slightly escapist beauty that her fashion can offer. It’s partly why the Alessandra Rich look is so appealing now. We want fashion to make us dream, especially as society emerges from tough and even traumatic times. Already there’s talk of a post-Covid spirit, one of rampant celebration that might mirror the 1920s surge of creativity and elated spirit. But for Rich, her story is also one of perseverance, not just passion:
“I just celebrated my anniversary in 2020: 10 years in fashion,” she says. “Passion is important, but on its own it’s not enough, it’s more rational than passionate. It’s another kind of love, one that lasts over time.”
This story first appeared on Prestige Hong Kong