Alexa Chung is often asked, “And what do you do?”
A perennial British It girl going on now a little over a decade, Chung has tried her hand at so many gigs that it’s hard to keep track of what exactly she’s doing at any given moment.
In the beginning, in the United Kingdom, she was mainly known as a TV presenter and style writer, penning columns with names like “Girl About Town.” But then she came to America to host a show for MTV – it lasted one season in 2009 – and the Brits seemed to not be clear on her source of employment.
“I get up at six and host a live fucking show, what do you do?” she would answer in those days whenever someone asked. “It became frustrating so I thought, maybe I can float around in It girl-dom for a while. [It’s] not a bad thing to do if you need a rest but actually not that fulfilling if you want to ponder.”
In time, Chung has come to embrace the perks of that vaunted sobriquet, which at any point can include making the fashion week rounds, jet-setting throughout the international party circuit and racking up collaborations and consulting assignations. Over the years, she’s scored quite a few notches on her proverbial bedpost – AG Jeans, Marks & Spencer, Superga and Eyeko, and she’s appeared several times as the face of Longchamp.
On Thursday, Chung was in Berlin to talk up her latest, serving as artistic director for a new photo shoot for Ugg, the sheepskin boots that rose to pop culture prominence in the early Aughts thanks to its celebrity following. A brand can’t sustain its relevance solely on celebrity clippings and so Ugg over the years has made overtures to the fashion industry in a bid for credibility, most recently signing up the models Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as a women’s ambassador and Hailey Baldwin for a campaign, and a collaboration with the likes of Thaddeus O’Neil for his spring 2017 men’s show. There’s something happening, too, no thanks to Vetements, with designers appropriating – sometimes ironically, sometimes sincerely – design staples and making them their own. (See Christopher Kane’s Crocs-heavy spring show for further proof.)
“I can totally imagine them being used in a fashion shoot. I bet Vetements have been on the blower,” Chung said referring to Ugg using a favorite old-fashioned Britishism.
She was at Soho House in a breezy dress and low-cut Ugg boots, natch, promoting the project with the good humor and quick reflexes of someone who’s done live television and is used to keeping up with the quippy banter of the front row. Still, she’s not so removed from It girl-dom. A day earlier, she had been in Paris for the Miu Miu show and a Longchamp party stacked with a new generation of It girls, like Soko and Lindsey Winxson.
“I’ve grown to appreciate it,” Chung, 32, said of the title. “When I was 22, and that label started being flung around, my only point of reference were aristocratic column writers in weekend magazines and I just didn’t have any affiliation to that. I didn’t grow up with a phenomenally wealthy dad and it didn’t seem appropriate to me when they’d shout It girl. I would think, ‘That seems a bit frivolous for how hard I work.’ Now, I’m like, how wonderful.”
Chung, as it turned out, was one of the early vocal adopters of the sometimes maligned Ugg boot, and so when the brand approached her to hatch together a campaign, she stepped to the plate with gusto. For the resulting shoot, which launches a boot model called “Classic 2.0,” Chung cast several girlfriends with similar jack-of-all-trade It girl-like professions – women like the poet Cleo Wade and the former Reformation designer Brianna Lance – in a series of portraits around their homes. “Not a dud brain between them,” Chung said. “For me, it was about being more realistic than aspirational about how girls genuinely wear these boots.”
Her goal, ultimately, and nominally Ugg’s, is to break the stigma, if you can call it that, around the brand. “Most girls I know own a pair but maybe it’s something of a secret or something. For me, they’re classic, something along the lines of a Barbour jacket or these things that are always in your life,” Chung said already sounding less like an It girl and more like a seasoned spokeswoman. “Get your Uggs out of the closet,” she extolled. “Come out of the closet!”
All of Chung’s various fashion odd jobs have in some respects prepared for the final graduation challenge of It girl school – launching a namesake label. It seems she’s picked up a few tricks along the way because hers, which will be contemporary-priced, will launch with a respectable list of high-end stores like Selfridges and Galeries Lafayette in May of next year.
“It’s very exciting but I’m going to be hermited away until next year like a shut-in,” she said.