Alexander White’s “focused, feminine” footwear is carving out an affordable commercial niche in the luxury market.
Alexander White is a footwear designer on the rise. Since his debut collection for spring 2016, White has built his eponymous women’s footwear brand into a thriving business. Winner of the Drapers Footwear Award for best footwear designer 2017, he is also set to make his debut at London Fashion Week this September, a fact he says is “incredibly exciting”.
All this may never have happened had it not been for advice gained during a chance encounter with his design heroine, Sandra Choi, creative director of Jimmy Choo, at Heathrow airport.
“Speaking to her at that moment gave me the courage to get up and start my own brand,” explains White. “I already had a business plan for it, but it was a terrifying thing to start up.”
White is currently stocked by 13 retailers, including Barneys New York and Chinese department store Lane Crawford, and doubled turnover between autumn 16 and spring 17, thanks to his feminine styles, which have proved tempting for buyers.
“We instantly fell in love with the unique detachable tassels that give a playful twist on a heel,” says Tiffany Thomas, director of independent Hoity Toity in Tarporley, Cheshire, White’s first UK stockist.
“The colours are exquisite: raspberry, cobalt and understated taupe. This naturally drew us to Alexander.”
After graduating from Edinburgh University with a BA in Design and Applied Arts, he started the MA Footwear course at Cordwainers, London College of Fashion. He did not complete the course and left after a year, taking a design job at Kurt Geiger. With his own brand, he honed an aesthetic he describes as chic and girly, evolving a more directional approach as the brand has grown.
“The voice of my work has become a lot stronger. It’s more focused and a lot more feminine,” explains White. “Now we’re focusing on the more fashion-led pieces rather than basics, which creates a stronger image.”
Exemplifying this is White’s signature ruffle detail. A key feature of the best-selling Eloise mule, the adornment stemmed from an unlikely inspiration.
“I work just around the corner from a bagel shop on Brick Lane,” says White. “It’s my go-to place. They put them in these brown paper bags and I wondered if I could take the serrated top of the bag and make it into a shoe.”
As well having a fashion-forward focus, White’s prices are around 20% lower than other luxury footwear brands. The shoes are made in the outskirts of Florence, Italy, and wholesale prices range from £100 for a flat slipper to £240 for a velvet high heel.
This commercial eye was highlighted by judges at the Drapers Footwear Awards 2017, who labelled White a “clear winner” of footwear designer of the year and praised his “strong design, good commercial understanding and clearly identified segment in the market”.
“It was amazing. I really wasn’t expecting to win,” says White. “It didn’t really sink in – there were so many people in the running, so it was absolutely incredible.”
As the brand’s buzz builds, White is clear on his next priority: “We’re growing really well in America but the UK has been quite quiet. I want to focus on building a presence here. I am British and this is home, so it’s a massive focus.”
With his bold, unique designs and carefully calculated niche, it looks like a matter of time before Alexander White’s stylings make their way firmly into the UK spotlight.