A behind the scenes peek into the Hermès atelier sparked Chester’s Alexandra Novacki’s passion for haute couture, and now she’s launching her own fashion house 

Just a few short years ago, Alexandra Novacki, who grew up in Chapel-en-le-Frith, but now lives in Chester, while staying with friends in Paris was offered the opportunity to visit some of the most famous design houses in the world. Like any sensible woman, she said yes. Please. 

Great British Life: Alexandra Novacki trained in fashion design, and in tailoring, in ChesterAlexandra Novacki trained in fashion design, and in tailoring, in Chester (Image: Alex Ford)

“The friend I was staying with told me I needed to see these silk scarves, that were really famous in France, and took me to Hermès, on Faubourg Saint Honoré. They invited us to have a look around a little bit behind the scenes, and it really got something going for me.” 

Alexandra applied for and achieved a place on a fashion design degree course at Chester University, starting in autumn 2019.  

“I deliberately chose Chester as it had a reputation for supporting the students more closely than some of the bigger universities can. I enjoy one-on-one learning and feedback suggested I wouldn’t get the degree of attention from their tutors I knew I would want and really value.” 

Then Covid hit, and life suddenly looked very different for all students, especially those working in collaborative environments. 

“It was pretty awful. We enjoyed working together and it was really difficult having to work from home and learn what we needed to learn, when it’s a very hands-on degree. I had a little sewing machine and nothing else of any use! The university was really supportive and provided things for me to use, too, but it wasn’t the easiest of starts. “ 

It was towards the end of her first year at university that Alexandra started to understand what fashion design meant to her and where she wanted to go with it. 

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“I started to understand what I really interested in – whether I liked menswear or womenswear, who I looked to as an inspiration, who I wanted to be more like... I always drew inspiration particularly from Alexandraander McQueen; I think in his 90s-early 2000s ‘golden era’ especially – his work was just groundbreaking. I found myself referring to his imagery again and again and felt something had died out a little, in fashion, since his passing. Fashion’s moved on and it’s all so fast now, we’ve lost the beauty of slow make and of tailoring and all those beautiful hand finishes, they’ve almost got forgotten a little bit, since he’s gone.” 

Having found her path, Alexandra set about finding someone to teach her the precision in tailoring she knew she’d need were she to aspire to the McQueen design style she so admires. 

“I went in search of a teacher,” she says. “I wanted to learn how to tailor and how to make these beautiful garments. I went to Crichton Bespoke, bespoke handmade tailors with stores in Chester and on Saville Row, in London. I just walked past one day, and thought ‘there’s an opportunity’, went in and explained my interest and they were great. They took me on board as an apprentice, a junior tailor, pretty much everything. I spent two years with them and it was incredible. It really pushed my knowledge and I learned everything from a shirt to trousers to men's and womenswear – pretty much everything you can draw and how to structure it. That really laid the foundations for me and as that was happening I found my own designs were becoming a lot more adventurous; I could understand how to make things a lot more, so I was pushing myself a bit more.” 

In 2022 Alexandra saw an opportunity to test herself further, to push her expectations of herself and her skills, and applied to present her work on the runway at Cheshire Fashion Week. 

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“I’d just done Northern Fashion Week, so it was kind of a few months of me realising there was potential for me to push a door open, here. I was nominated last summer for Emerging Womenswear Designer at Northern Fashion Week and that was a realisation that what I was doing was right. It was such an exciting experience and gave me the confidence to carry on, it was the moment I knew I could push this more now, and name myself as an haute couture womenswear designer, specialising in structured tailoring, and that’s been my focus from then on. 

“In November last year I took a brand new collection, whch I named After Midnight, to Cheshire Fashion Week, which was shown on the runway at Chester Cathedral. The response from that was overwhelming. It was absolutely brilliant, people loved it and immediately after the show I was invited to do a one day showcase on Bond Street in London, and provide a red carpet outfit for an event at Cannes Film Festival, which was really exciting.” 

On 26 May, Alexandra held her own, solo, fashion show, again at Chester Cathedral. A sell-out event, she presented a brand new collection, Fierce Creatures. 

Great British Life: Alexandra's runway at Chester Cathedral drew rave reviewsAlexandra's runway at Chester Cathedral drew rave reviews (Image: Emily Johnson)

“it wasa huge moment in my career,” Alex says. “The feedback has been amazing; even on the night I had almost all of the 110 attendees coming to tell me their thoughts and feelings. I’m still speechless at how brilliantly it went.” 

Alex’s aim was to create a show of thought-provoking, unique pieces, in the best tradition of haute couture across the decades, and she didn’t let her audience down. 

“It was obviously a runway collection, something you’d see once in your lifetime, and then it’s gone, but straight away I had a lot of people coming and asking if I could remake a jacket, or a waistcoat, or a pair of trousers to their size, or with little detail changes.” 

So what’s next for this up-and-coming designer? 

“I am developing a ready-to-wear collection, inspired by Fierce Creatures. Essentially this will be the plan going forward, to do runways as the heart and soul of the business, but then to have a ready-to-wear collection branching off from every runway, so you feel like you’re buying a little piece of that runway, a piece of that experience.” 

I: alexandranovacki