A month ago, Alix Higgins whispered in my ear about a pre-collection he'd been working on. He wanted to launch something around the holidays and thought it time to double his output (previously, he'd release one collection a year). That project is Archery Practice, a name which carries a heaping spoon of nostalgia for the Australian designer, who is turning 30 this year.
Higgins wanted to pay homage to his youth, to memories of shooting arrows with his dad, which, he confesses, he was never very good at. At some point, he'd begun to consider the destruction that underpins designing clothes, wondering if there was a way to neutralise this act, which is really about taking, into something beautiful and productive. Hence the upcycling, something Higgins considers "essential" to his work, not only for its obvious benefits (the environment, waste) but because of the sentiment it injects each garment with (above all, Alix Higgins is about storytelling).
Leading up to the launch of Archery Practice at China Heights in Surry Hills, RUSSH joined Alix Higgins on set in his apartment and at Rushcutters Bay Park, stealing an exclusive look at the collection. Below, find a behind the scenes glimpse at Archery Practice, courtesy of Olivia Repaci.
Tell me about the name of the collection, Archery Practice. How did you land on it?
When I was younger my father used to take me to archery practice in this huge outdoor field. I was never any good, but I thought to create a collection that was nostalgic in some way. I’m turning 30 this year and so I wanted to take this last moment of my 20s to create something about youth.
I had also been thinking about how fashion is such a destructive profession; and how through upcycling and other practices I could refine and control this destruction into something more balanced. I began by cutting up t-shirts my ex-boyfriend had printed for me, using them to drape and develop new shapes. So this collection started as a meditation on pain, and how this could be refined and turned into something poetic, beautiful. Fashion and art are usually a distillation of emotion – often negative – into desire. This is what archery is too, an ancient, practiced, violent form. Something between sport, warfare, and performance.
Place is also very important to me; in situating a collection somewhere imaginary or otherwise. The last two seasons have been an odyssey – first a desert, then a forest. Now the set is my idea of an overgrown backyard of sorts – like you are almost home.
The ‘Practice’ is essential, given that this is a pre-collection – a breeding ground for ideas for the future.
Describe the collection in three words…
Violent, angelic, collegiate.
What inspired the sudden drop?
I’ve been working on one collection a year for the past few years and felt it was time to graduate to two, and wanted to launch something around the holidays (a rough halfway point between Australian Fashion Weeks). China Heights kindly offered me the space in January and so it was decided. I also find around this time that my customers are hungry for something new, so it’s a little gift for them also.
Polo shirts feature heavily in this collection. Do you see them as an Alix Higgins signature?
Yes in a way. They were my personal obsession for a long time and carry such weight. I used to wear them when I worked in a department store as my uniform so there is that nostalgia, and at the same time they are masculine but kind of completely sexless.
Also, Pique is a lovely fabric to work with.
What piece are you most proud of?
The Cocoon t-shirt. The top half of the last ‘bridal' look took a lot of time and many iterations/redevelopments to get right. This piece is made from two existing t-shirts with zero waste, and forms a sort of cocoon/cape. It is protective and at the same time revealing, and each person that has worn it in the fitting process kind of brings themselves into it in a way that is very interesting. I am really proud of this piece (it’s what I am going to wear to the show!)
With your casting director Chloé Corkran you always curate a unique lineup of models. Can you introduce us to the faces of this collection?
Chloé and I spoke a lot about a collegiate, youthful spirit or a person with a softer demeanour for this season. As it's a lookbook it broadens our approach a little bit – we wanted to work with purely ‘street cast’ people who hadn’t really modelled before. Some were people we'd reached out to about the show but had declined. The lookbook is less intimidating for people to be a part of because it’s a smaller initial audience, with less ‘performance’ involved.
We wanted to work with 10 new people to populate this collection, and started with our inner circles of colleagues, friends, my star intern Abigail Ardron. A rockstar look-alike or two. And some superstar artists like Angela Goh who we are both fans of, who is the last look of the collection – the bride. Lukas Kalos and Paul Halton, also young artists and clients of mine we found through Instagram. Friends Claudia Nicholson, Nathan Aquilina, Adelaide Asterix, Nina Cannane, Andrew Boustani and Jarryd Lynagh (an artist at China Heights).
What is the upcycling process like? Will this become a mainstay in your designs?
It’s challenging timewise, as a lot of thought and care goes into sourcing and selecting the ‘raw materials’. It’s also inspiring, working with garments as fabric that has already had a life, that has a story. It’s essential for me to continue in this way, and each season it is growing in the share of the collection in terms of time and production. There’s also something special about offering clients this opportunity to be a part of the world of my brand, while at the same time offering something totally unique to them.
I spy a slogan t-shirt. Who would you love to see wear it?
The slogan t-shirt “I don’t believe in heaven but I know there is a hell” is actually inspired by a photo from Florence Welch’s book of poetry Useless Magic, in which she wears a tourist t-shirt from an American town called Hell. It just says "HELL" in capital letters. I thought this was a perfect summation of where my mind was at while working on this collection. So I would love to see this on her as sort of meta-muse-moment.
What’s on your Archery Practice soundtrack?
50 Cent, Tate McRae, Jerskin Fendrix’s work for Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, Morrissey, Huck Hastings, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Missy Elliot, Jockstrap, The Drums, Misfits, NERD, and Regina Spektor.
Share an IN and OUT for the year ahead…
Out: Not picking a side
What are you manifesting for Alix Higgins in 2024?
Experience Archery Practice for yourself on opening night, Thursday January 18, from 6-8pm at China Heights, where the Alix Higgins pop-up will continue through to Sunday January 21.