“I’m often sceptical about doing interviews, and photo shoots as it’s a bit like social media: so easy to paint everything as a perfect picture and hide all the less shiny bits you don’t want people to know or see,” London-based designer Alex Muto tells me when we link up post-shoot. He’s in his cosy canal boat which is moored near Tottenham in East London. Just a quick search online adds credit to his claim, there’s little information and scarce interviews about the designer, despite his burgeoning eponymous brand. “I’d hate for people to read this and look at me and think I know what I’m doing and I’ve got it all figured out! Like with anyone, this is so not the case. I want people to remember that failures are just as important as the successes. They need each other in order to exist.”
Muto was born and raised in the sprawling Lincolnshire Countryside to a British mother and an Italian-born father. He can trace his infatuation with design back to his childhood, and particularly the influence of his father, who was a women’s shoe designer. He grew up amongst the colourful sketches and would spend sick-days at the factory with his Dad, often sat quietly in the corner during manufacturing meetings. “I used to cut up bridal magazines as a toddler and make scrapbooks of dresses, and I’d paint on pieces of wood or stones I found outside, press flowers, rearrange my bedroom weekly, make greetings cards. Creativity has always been in my DNA – it’s second nature to me, and when I feel most alive and excited.”
He admits to having a problematic relationship with academia, but the one subject he felt comfortable with was art & design, where he was given the creative freedom to nurture his talent. “I eventually fell into modelling at 16, where I got my first taste of the fashion industry. When you’re that age, the bright lights and glamour are all terribly exciting and equally terrifying! I never had the unshakable confidence some of these kids have in front of the camera and was a tragic model, but being in that environment I got to see how shoots work and I got to meet and work with designers, photographers, stylists, makeup artists who were creative in their own ways every day.” His foray into the modelling led him onto a Fashion Design course at Westminster University, and after graduating, he quickly landed jobs at some of the world’s biggest brands including Tom Ford, Gucci and Burberry. Despite working with amongst the fashion elite, he realised that something wasn’t falling into place. While everyone around him thrived within the fast-paced work environment, he recognised that this wasn’t the area he excelled in (“I have a very specific way I like to work (extremely thorough, alone mostly, and at my own pace) and the way those design teams are set up doesn’t always nurture the natural introvert!”)
After leaving Burberry, he decided that it was time for him to create something of his own, leaning on a particular piece of advice he’d been given: ‘do what you do and what you know as no-one else can do that better than you.’ He launched his eponymous brand with a string of tees, hoodies and sweaters adorning playful artwork and typography. It’s worlds away from the more serious design work he’d been doing in-house and more in-line with his own creative aesthetic. He’s dedicated to creating something playful and fun, with bursts of colour and nostalgia, but while still maintaining a particular East London edge. “The brand is a culmination of everything I am and everything I see day to day. Inspiration can come from the most unexpected and strangest places sometimes. I’m heavily influenced by my rural upbringing/childhood; there’s a lot of nostalgia and a sense of fun and adventure in my design and prints. References to trips I’ve taken or things I’ve seen that stuck with me. The brand is also deeply rooted in the mix of British style and Italian style – the effortless fun and rebellious nature of British youth culture against the traditional beauty of classic Italian design.”
His main goal is that people take away enjoyment from the pieces. He admits that he spent such a long time as a self-confessed perfectionist, wanting his work to exist in some sort of “untouchable alternate reality”, but he’s now steered away from his idealist mentality and is dedicated to designing pieces that bring him joy and that can be worn every day. “As someone who has battled with mental health problems over the years, it’s so important to me that the brand is uplifting, light-hearted and inclusive. Fashion and clothing should only ever be fun!”
The brand has already found a firm fanbase, and Muto is in a position where he can start looking at stocking the brand in-stores as demand continues to grow. He’s got a new collection coming in early 2020, as well as a string of collaborations and surprises lined up which he’s excited by, but tight-lipped about. That said, he’s in no rush, instead taking his time to perfect each piece.
As for the future? “I’m really interested in expanding into other areas of design and collaborating with other artists in different fields. I’m someone who is fascinated by interiors, antiques, homeware, sculptures and paintings. I imagine the brand becoming more of a place where people can go and always find some unique and exciting pieces – whether that be clothes, accessories, original prints/paintings, stationary, quilts, plant pots! Anything that lends itself to the brand aesthetic. I’m busy creating my fantasy Muto world.”
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