Australian-born designer Alex Hackett uses product packaging like NASA space foil or bubble wrap in order to create unique pieces for her own label ALCH. She also has a deep passion for Nike and repurposes garments and accessories – to be seen on her 105k strong Instagram channel “miniswoosh”. We met 2017’s Vote Forward participant in her studio in London to talk about reconstruction, deconstruction and of course the (mini) Swoosh.
Interview: Florian Deckert | Photos: Rachel Dray
Hey Alex, please tell our readers a couple of things about yourself to start. You’re originally from Australia, but are now based in London. How did the move come about?
Hello! Yep, of course. I moved to London just over three years ago, shortly after graduating university in Melbourne. I wanted to gain experience on a more global scale and really wanted a change of scenery.
Now having ties at both ends of the world, what’s the main difference to you between Australia and the UK when it comes to sneakers and street fashion?
I think accessibility is the biggest difference between the two regions. In London, you can literally go into central and walk into any streetwear store (albeit you may have to queue for some) whereas in Australia, you’re limited to online shopping for a plethora of brands. For this reason, I think perhaps there’s a different value placed on streetwear items and sneakers in Australia, simply because there are much fewer opportunities to buy product. I feel like Australia gets neglected by brands a lot of the time but I’m starting to see that change recently, which is really exciting.
Is there also something that made you feel right at home when you moved to London?
I mean, there are A LOT of Australians that live in London. It’s like a home away from home.
Your Instagram handle “miniswoosh” already reveals a certain preference for a particular brand. What’s your connection to Nike – both on a personal and professional level?
Personally, I’m just a huge brand advocate – I love the product, the story-telling, the logo and branding. Professionally, due to the nature of my work, I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to work on a number of projects with them across the globe and interact with their product and stories directly in a really organic way.
The mini swoosh is one of those little design details that many people might not even pay that much attention to, but to others it’s sort of like the cherry on top of a great design. Can you explain the fascination for the mini swoosh from your point of view?
I’m obsessed with the psychology behind branding and logos, and the idea that an entire brand’s ethos can be encapsulated within a single graphic and transcend all languages. I’m also fascinated by subtle design details, and for me the mini swoosh encompasses both of these things.
Is there a certain sneaker that started your love for Nike? If so, what makes this one so special?
It probably wasn’t the trainer that started my love for Nike, but it definitely cemented it – the Nike Air Max Plus or TN. For a long time in Australia, they were almost a taboo shoe in the social scene. I remember this one pair that sat on the back wall of the Nike Factory Outlet I worked at whilst studying – all white with hot pink detailing – and I’ve always regretted not buying it.
What have been some of your favorite releases of this year so far – whether from a design perspective or simply because they’ve been in your regular rotation a lot?
This year, I’ve loved the CDG Air Max 180s and the return of the Air Max Deluxe. I probably wear my React Elements the most though – those and my Tom Sachs are my regular studio shoes.
Please tell us a little bit more about your own brand, ALCH. How did the whole project start?
ALCH is an experimental menswear label that focuses on the process of reconstruction and deconstruction. It started off as just a digital platform where I would post images of different self-led material research projects based on found materials.
Can you break down the philosophy behind ALCH?
We’re really interested in extending the lifespan of pre-existing products, as well as new items of apparel through hyper-functional design.
Deconstruction has always been a prevalent theme in your works. What’s your inspiration for that?
I’ve always been fascinated by non-traditional fabrications, packaging and discarded materials. I’ve been collecting “textiles” found on the street for almost ten years now. Pre-existing products and materials have always been my main point of inspiration.
People like Virgil Abloh also share a deconstructive design approach – and he was recently appointed head of design of Louis Vuitton. Is that something you could imagine for yourself at some point in the future, taking a permanent position as a designer at a renowned label?
I mean, it’s the dream isn’t it? I do love what Helmut Lang is doing at the moment though – a design residency program – where creatives are invited to be Editors in Residence, or to “re-see” iconic past looks. I think that’s a really fresh way to breathe new light into a brand as well as involving more and more creatives in the industry.
From bubble wrap and insulation packaging to windscreen protectors and IKEA bags, you definitely have used some pretty interesting fabrics to say the least. Where do you get the ideas for that and is there a common thread behind this?
More often than not, my ideas formulate from the surroundings in which I live and work. I’m really inspired by day-to-day life, and generate a lot of ideas simply on the commute to/from the studio.
You once described your style as “sportswear not designed for sports”. Can you elaborate on that?
I mean, as bizarre as that concept sounds, it’s pretty much the norm nowadays. I’d love to know the facts about what percentage of people who wear Nike running gear actually do sports in it. I love activewear because of its functional elements, but I think it translates so easily into so many different areas of your lifestyle, so I really like to embrace that and push it to the extreme.
ALCH pieces have been worn by a number of people, from Kendrick Lamar to Stormzy to Brooke Candy. Do you get in touch with these people before and kind of curate what they’re getting?
Usually it’s the other way round, where a stylist or their representative will get in contact with us. It’s far less glamorous than it looks and usually super last minute. It’s exciting nonetheless – I definitely thrive on deadlines.
Who were you most excited to see rocking ALCH?
I think just seeing anyone actually wear it is pretty satisfying. What a lot of people don’t realize is that you may lend and/or create custom pieces for a vast number of celebrities or artists but only a few very rare occasions do they actually get worn.
A lot of people might also know you from Nike’s 2017 VOTE FORWARD campaign, where you were one of the 12 designers and represented London. How did you land that gig?
The Nike London team actually reached out to me directly for that project. It was totally unexpected and I honestly still feel so lucky to have been able to take part. I’d still love to see that design realized.
Earlier this year, you were one of the mentors for Nike’s LONDON: ON AIR campaign. What kind of knowledge and tips did you share with the aspiring designers there?
For LONDON: ON AIR, my area of expertise was Embellishment, so I was advising on the smaller details that can contribute to a design. A lot of people underestimate the value of the small details of a design – such as the aglets, the innersole design, the lacing system, the woven webbing on the heel etc. – but I feel these details can really make or break a design. They’re a crucial element in the story-telling process.
When we first got in touch for doing this interview, you were headed to Portland for a visit to the Nike headquarters. Can you tell us what you did there?
Yep! I recently went out to WHQ to mentor this year’s LONDON: ON AIR winner. It was such an incredible experience to be able to go back and see how much the project had evolved since the year prior. Working with such huge companies, such as Nike, can be quite overwhelming at first, and it’s a total learning experience each and every time you do work together.
Next to Nike, another brand that you’ve got close ties with is Dutch sneaker store Patta. How did you get in touch with them and what does your collaboration look like?
That partnership developed pretty organically, through friends of friends, and started off relatively small – like most projects do – with the creation of a custom 1/1 piece for Edson. We’ve worked on a few small run editions since then, always keeping it super limited for the community.
What’s next for Alex Hackett and ALCH? What are some of the next projects you’ll be working on?
I’m working on a few projects with Nike that will be released over the next few months; plus, I’m about to start working on ALCH’s second season, which will show at LFWM next January.
Any last words?
Have a Nike day!
This story first appeared in our October 2018 issue of Sneakers Magazine – available now!