With their lurid skulls and razor blades and tartan hand grenades, Alexandra Mann’s washbags are the antithesis of Cath Kidston-style cutesey florals. Sewn from Dutch-made cloth destined for the African market, her designs are boldly graphic and deliberately jarring – and a great gift for both men and women.
Alex worked for Vivienne Westwood for a number of years, assisting the head of couture, before working as a stylist and costume designer on music videos, commercials and, most notably, Pusher, a feature film starring Agyness Deyn that was shot largely at night on the streets of Hackney. The experience spurred her on to do less, not more, as she realised what she really wanted was to spend more time in her studio. ‘I decided after that film that if I could apply the same effort to something I was doing for myself I’d be a lot happier.’
So, knowing she wanted to be her own boss, Alex approached Liberty via its ‘Best of British’ competition with her made-to-order washbags and travel accessories, planning to ‘bamboozle them with colour’. She was hoping Liberty buyers would take between ten and 20 pieces. They ordered 450.
Despite the growing demand, Alex stills makes all her pieces with one assistant in her tiny studio near the canal in Islington. When choosing the fabrics, she sticks to her original rule. ‘If it looks mental and unwearable on the roll, we’ll go for it.’ For now, Alexandra Mann accessories are absurdly well-priced. Snap up her work for a song while you can.