When Alex Eagle was born six weeks early, her mother, a medical journalist, brought her portable typewriter into the hospital and filed from her bed. Two weeks later, she was giving a talk at a fertility and sterility conference in Dublin, so the newborn Alex was brought along, latched to her mother’s breast beneath a shawl and the two ended up on the front page of the Irish Times. It’s no surprise then that starting a family and having a successful career is second nature to Alex now she is a mum.
“Like my mother, I never really stopped working,” says Alex, who has a one-year-old son Jack and another on the way. “I held meetings at my home for the first few months after Jack was born and cut back on travel. Mum worked since I was dot and I do hold that quite close – I never resented my mum so I don’t worry about being a working mother myself.” For those unfamiliar, her home-like eponymous stores are some of the most influential in the industry. The Times billed her as changing the way the A-list shop – and her aesthetic is unquestionably trusted. If you have ever stepped into her shop on London’s Lexington Street, or visited her two outposts in Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire and Soho House in Berlin, as well as her new event space/store on The Strand (again in London) and wanted to buy, well, everything, you will know why. There is an ease throughout that makes it hard to resist. When asked if style is something you are born with she laughs. “I don’t even know if I have good taste,” she says. The one-stop-shops for the time-poor but style-rich – house effortless evening suits, alongside languid trench coats and low-key trainers. There is tasteful artwork, collectable homeware, books, coffee and even facials. “People have so little time, they don’t want to waste it just consuming – they want an edit, a point of view but they also want to learn something,” she says. The business was born from a simple idea. While styling actresses, models and friends in her apartment (she was formerly at Harper’s BAZAAR and Joseph), they would invariably want to buy the ashtray, mirror or books scattered around. Her husband suggested making a store that felt like her flat, and just as at home, people pop in and stay for hours. Her own line, made up of those essential building blocks that plug the holes between the just-so niche labels, does seem to have the working mother in mind. There’s the wear-with-everything blazer, the perfect kilt, the lightweight knitwear, effortless dresses and cotton shirts. Later this spring she is launching a range of easy-to-organise suitcases with must-have luggage label, Away, and she has just created the “dream” parka with luxury brand Troy London, all made in England and ideal for running around with little ones. “As a mother you get up at six – you want to look put together and be able to travel,” Alex explains. “Everything goes together so you don’t have to overthink getting dressed. It’s pared-back, comfortable, and made from luxurious, natural fabrics, so feels good against your skin. As much as you want to wear beautiful things, babies always seem to get their mitts on the most precious pieces but everything can be washed or cleaned easily.” Even her 3,000 sq ft all-white loft – with its contemporary art, shelves of coffee table tomes and light airiness – has that Eagle ease. It’s probably why she says her friends always find it so convenient to pop by. We couldn’t wait to spend time with her – just like a visit to her stores, we were sure we’d learn something. Words: Claire Brayford | Photographer:Lauren Michelle | Go to www.alexeagle.co.uk
What have you learnt since becoming a mother?
You aren’t given some internal manual when the baby is born that means you suddenly know how to do everything. I’m learning to take advice, to lean on people and not try to pretend I know it all. I’m also learning to trust my own instincts. It’s tapping in and knowing that often you do know what’s best. It is a real mix of letting people help and not over-worrying and over-thinking it.
Has your approach to work changed?
It has taught me to be more focused. I get up as early as I can so I get some time with Jack. I go for a walk with him in Regent’s Park, get a coffee when the weather is nice. Having that time together before work means I can focus on work for the day. I always pop back in the afternoon and try to get back for bath time. I have to divide my week up into whatever project I’m working on whether it’s the store, the space in Berlin, the Farmhouse. I try not to over-cram my day, I am quite prone to having back-to-back-to-back meetings but I am trying to be realistic about how much time I need.
Do you feel like it is working?
It’s a work in progress. The first year was dealing with the guilt – the guilt of not being in the office with your colleagues and the guilt of not being with my child – and then realising that guilt gets you nowhere. I’m trying to take care of myself. I do yoga every day and rest. I got a pre-eclampsia in my first pregnancy, I was really stressed. I thought I had toned work down but I was still at full pelt compared to what I should be doing, so this time I am trying to allow for that and give myself more time, taking longer weekends in the country and being with Jack and asking for help if I need it.
What made you want to start your own business?
After Harper’s BAZAAR, I went to Joseph and there I really learnt the 360 on how the industry works. I was working in PR, marketing, shooting the campaigns, working with the buyers, the CEO, the communications director. It helped me to understand the industry inside out. That really inspired me to open my own space but it happened really by accident. I was styling friends, actresses, models from my flat and they would end up buying the ashtray, the books, mirror or the coffee table. Because of that, my husband said ‘look why don’t you turn your hobby into a job and curate a shop that feels like your flat where everything is for sale, the painting, the candle, the silk pyjamas. Make the things that you love and sell them alongside the things you have collected’.
Is this the future of retail?
There are so many brilliant online retailers and department stores. Anything that is not Net-A-Porter, Selfridges or Matches has to offer something else. We spend loads of time offering our clients a special edit and one-off exclusive items – we respect that their time is precious.
Do you find yourself wanting to keep most of what you discover?
I’m in Morocco at the moment and I keep finding all of these beautiful things – the Berber crafts, linens and pots and all the Berber clothes and colours, the Majorelle blue. It’s very tempting to keep them for yourself but you have to force yourself to put the very best things in the shop – that is the whole point. I’m good at being selective. I do hoard books though – I find it hard to part with them but I use them the whole time so I don’t feel guilty. Jack has got so many as well – I have already passed my crazy book obsession onto my son but it is no bad thing.
How do you stay motivated?
If I am not feeling motivated to work I do spend a day researching, reading and spending time with my family. And then it comes back. There were days after Jack was born where I thought: ‘God is my inspiration ever going to come back?’ Then a year later everything inspires me all over again, every colour, smell, pieces of fabric – one jug can inspire whole reams of thought and ideas.
Do you find it hard to switch off?
Having a child has taught me to have a digital detox. I am cautious with Jack not to be around my phone. I noticed him grabbing for it and there is nothing worse than a child reaching for your phone – it’s heartbreaking. So when I am with him I turn it off and hide it behind some cushions. I read that Steve Jobs never let his kids touch an iPhone. So if the maker didn’t then that’s really saying something.
Does he have much screen time?
Not really. He has his sisters – my stepdaughters Liberty who is 15 and Scarlett who’s ten – doting grandparents, he has a nanny, me, his dad so really there are enough people to entertain him. He is obsessed with cars and he is not reading yet but he is opening the pages and looking through books, and he has a mini architects’ desk where he sits with his book like he is reading the newspaper, it’s really adorable. His sisters are so loving and hands-on. They play records, dance with him, read to him, they have so much energy and love for him – he knows no different but he is so lucky to be born into this ready-made family with girls who just adore him. We call him ‘Little Principe’.
Are you careful with his diet?
Like with everything – you think you will never give them sugar but then you do. He will have a babyccino with chocolate on the top or a bit of chocolate. I’m not super strict, 98 percent of the time he is eating seasonal, freshly-made, organic food. I get Abel & Cole boxes delivered – it’s all seasonal, local fruit and veg and they send me white fish, then I buy organic chicken from the farmers market in Marylebone or at Daylesford Organic. I don’t want anything to be forbidden. I don’t want him to have any issues about things not being allowed.
How did you design Jack’s nursery?
That had previously been my room so I wanted to really make it his. Some friends recommended Lara Apponyi at Work and Sea design studio. I wanted something that looked like a hand-painted stripe and I didn’t know if Jack was going to be a girl or a boy so I thought red was a really good, unisex colour – she made it especially for him. Then the Edit 58 artisanal animal masks, he loves and still pats them – and the car is his absolute favourite. My husband bought that for his daughters but Jack has claimed it, he is obsessed with cars and he takes his friends for rides around the loft when they come to play.
What do you love about open-plan living?
You get to enjoy all of the space and light all at once. The bedrooms and bathrooms are behind doors but everything else is open. I can always see Jack when we’re cooking – he learnt to walk at 10 months and I’m sure that’s because he had so much surface area to run around in.
Tell us about your childhood?
I grew up in Chiswick and my grandparents had a house in the country with an enormous garden so I had a lovely mix of the London life – going to school in Knightsbridge and I went to a boarding school in Dorset – and then spending weekends in the country. I am the oldest of 15 cousins on my mother’s side – I remember spending a lot of time playing dress up and I would direct them in plays.
Who do you resemble?
I am like both my parents. My mother is much more practical, she is the director of my company and she is really helping me organise my time so I can spend more time with Jack. I am probably a bit more instinctual and emotional like my dad. He was actually a documentary film director and is now a gallerist/art dealer. I spent my childhood going round auctions and Christies with him. I am incredibly proud of both my parents, they are amazing.
What have you worn until it was threadbare?
There was a jacket that I used to steal from my mum by Piero de Monzi, we literally wore it so much I had to have it relined. It was the basis of my uniform – the idea of timeless staples that go with everything and just make you look the part. I design my collection around all the pieces that would be threadbare. The silk wrap top, the perfect kilt, the best blazer. We launched a bespoke suit collection and the tailor made me a bright blue linen suit that I have lived in. I tend to wear a similar uniform, cashmere ribbed roll-neck, black cigarette pants or jeans, an Alex Eagle blazer made from Loro Piana fabric – it fits like a glove. My whole team is obsessed with fabric and we will spend hours deciding one weight of silk over another.
What is in your wardrobe?
I love The Row knitwear, they make the best cashmere, beautiful slippers by Le Monde Beryl, Veja vegan trainers – they sell out at my shop and I live in them. I buy one handbag, not loads. The Row crossbody bag, which I bung on with my keys, credit card and phone and I love Valextra wash bags to organise everything. I like heels you can run around in – Balenciaga, Vetements and Robert Clergerie do slip-on mules that are really fab. And I use the Anya Hindmarch baby emergency kit – it has pockets for everything. I do find as a mother of a son that you have cars in every pocket.
What does Jack wear?
We did a collaboration with Elfie so he loves that, he wears Olivier Baby, Caramel and The Animal Observatory. It’s funny, I always thought that I would dress him quite classically like a Little Lord Fauntleroy, but he just doesn’t suit it. He is quite a modern little baby – he suits colour, stripes and patterns and his Osh Kosh dungarees.
Who helped you buy everything before he arrived?
I used [baby concierge] Anita’s House, and she has now become a friend. She helped me to source all of the baby things, the cot, the sheets – she holds your hand and doesn’t let you overbuy. I love children’s things I have to stop myself. Very spoilingly for Christmas, our tailor made Jack a bespoke Loro Piana suit that is just the sweetest thing. If I get a little girl next…
Alex Eagle’s little list of loves
Alex Eagle geranium and sandalwood candle – I find it really comforting. Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend: it’s not very highbrow but it’s very interesting. I also love reading about the Mitford sisters and any books about Peggy Guggenheim. Pierre Marcolini chocolate – the darker and more raw the better. Suzanne Kaufmann pillow spray – it’s organic and comforting for me and for Jack Portrait of a Lady scent by Frederic Malle: I love that fragrance. Smythson Portobello diary. QuintEssential Minerals – they’re little vials of salty water that really hydrate you. Anastasia Achilleos facials are the best. Argan oil: it’s good for me, the growing second bump, and for Jack as it’s all-natural. Heather Sayer at Josh Wood is the best manicurist, no one beats her, and Josh does the best colour and cut. And Santa Maria Novella Melograno soap and body oil.