A New Yorker recently asked me whom she needed to meet to take the temperature of creative London today. That would be Alex Eagle, a ubiquitous design maverick whose ambitions are vast and stretch from fashion and sportswear to beauty, design, and furniture.
The 38-year-old’s center of operations is Alex Eagle Studio in Soho, an industrial, Tribeca-like store situated on a narrow and inauspicious lane just off Leicester Square. Ever since it opened, in 2017, it has been catnip for the cool crowd, which craves her curation of objects and goods. Many of the items are designed by Eagle herself.
Eagle knows everyone and is invited everywhere—she sits on the Serpentine Galleries’ Future Contemporaries Committee—and yet the laconic brunette beauty is not strictly part of the city’s established fashion firmament.
Eagle greets me at the door of her store and leads me to a velvet sofa in a seating area tucked in the back corner. She sits down, curling her legs under her, and starts chatting like an old friend. “Can we go out to lunch soon? Promise?” she says before we’ve even started. Her style immediately reminds me of Vogue’s former West Coast director, Lisa Love. And not due to their jawline-grazing bobs, masculine-minimalist aesthetics, and old-school black Ray-Bans. Eagle, like Love, doesn’t shout loudly about herself, but her presence is innately alluring.
Eagle has operated outside the predictable fashion box, eschewing runway shows and trends, popping up here and there and cleverly deploying the art of selective attendance.
During our conversation, she will name-check the stylist Elizabeth Saltzman, who is a great friend, agent Camilla Lowther, and Venetian aristocrat Bianca Arrivabene. It could come across as self-congratulatory or studied, but in Eagle’s case it’s fangirling.
Eagle has always been her own boss, and it shows. When she was growing up, both parents worked in TV and film, and she was brought up in the affluent London area of Chiswick, where she collected fashion images, filled sketchbooks with her designs, and constantly cruised Sloane Street, browsing Harvey Nichols as one would an art gallery, popping into Chanel down the road to buy a lipstick just so she could taste the glamour.
She studied art history at Oxford Brookes University before working at Tank and Harper’s Bazaar. Next, she joined retailer Joseph, where she exchanged the currency of youth for lessons in buying, merchandising, and designing.
Her then boyfriend (now husband), Mark Wadhwa, observed that she might as well open a shop because friends were always asking to buy the books, photography, and furniture in her apartment. And so she signed her first lease, on a storefront on Walton Street in Chelsea, in 2014. She’d presciently made friends with the right editors and designers along the way, who came, bought, and spread the word.
In 2017, Eagle moved to her Soho space, and her collection of coats, trousers, jackets, and knitwear expanded. They now line the walls around us and have been augmented by homeware items and furniture. As she built her business, she also built her family; she and Wadhwa are now parents to two toddlers, Jack and Coco, in addition to Wadhwa’s two children from a previous marriage.
Eagle has always been her own boss, and it shows.
Many have tried to emulate her, so what does she think the secret is? “With art and furniture, you have to choose what works for living now,” she says. “Trends die out as quickly as they appear. Not overthinking fashion frees you up to enjoy art, your children, and having fun with friends. It opens up time to have a better life.”
On a trip to Berlin, she met Nick Jones, founder of Soho House, and a partnership was born. He asked her to open her first concept venture, Store X, in Berlin’s Soho House, followed by one at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire. This year, a new, independent Store X opened on the ground floor of 180 The Strand (where one of Jones’s newest venues, 180 House, sits on the top two floors).
Separately, Eagle and her school friend Sophie Hodges set up an ancillary fabric-and-furniture business called Eagle & Hodges. Each item is made in the U.K. from locally sourced materials.
A rethink during lockdown convinced her to prioritize exercise. So she decided to take up the sport she had loved as a child—fencing—because of the focused and meditative engagement it requires. She set up her version of a fitness center, the Alex Eagle Sporting Club, at 180 The Strand and Oakley Court hotel, and she will open another location next to her Soho studio this spring. Pilates, dance, and jujitsu will also be on the program.
Eagle recently sponsored the British fencing team and has designed a line of clothes for both working out and chilling out. The Alex Eagle point of difference? The color palette, which is limited to tonal, creamy whites, in a nod to the classic fencing uniform. She Instagrammed herself modeling it almost daily over the last few months.
Eagle shows me the workshop below the shop, where former Savile Row tailors work on her new designs, as she plans her next move. “Let’s do a dinner at 180 House,” she says. “You invite six people, and I’ll do the same. And you better come and do some fencing.” I can’t help but agree to both.
Vassi Chamberlain is a London-based Writer at Large for Air Mail