It’s very possible that you’ve heard of Alexa Chung, or that you’ve seen her image plastered somewhere, with either fawning platitudes over her style or disapproving comments over her decidedly skinny frame. You may have overheard a conversation about her spoken by some twenty-something year olds or spotted a picture out of the corner of your eyes in a tabloid magazine or fashion tome. It’s very possible you’ve heard of her, but like a vague piece of gossip or a complicated soap plot you’re not entirely sure who she is or what she does.
She’s a peculiarly specific ‘It Girl’, veering from a stint in teenage modeling to a spot of presenting Youth TV before suddenly becoming a style icon with the help of a fresh bob haircut and peter-pan collar.
Officially her main source of income has been presenting music shows on late night TV, but she has fairly recently turned to writing, initially penning a short lived monthly column for Company magazine and now contributing to British Vogue. Her innate sense of personal style has won her high-profile fans in the fashion world, and her girl-next-door, self-deprecating demeanor means she appears accessible and approachable to young women, a trait used to full effect in her book It.
Like her public image the book is somewhat indefinable and genre-less; it begins with a photo of her young self atop a pony, moves on to her childhood love of the Spice Girls and escalates into how she honed her music taste and met her best friend. It’s like a scrapbook autobiography, meandering through pictures and musings about her own style inspirations, to make-up tips, sketches, doodles and photographs. It seems like the hastily assembled ramblings of your older-sister’s cool and kooky best friend, a teenage journal or art-project deemed interesting enough to make money off girls coming of age, and yet it’s marketed towards Chung’s own hipster generation – a confused group of Millenials trying to find their way in the world, 30 being the new 21. And that’s why it works.
Although It is in some ways a little vapid and self-indulgent it appeals greatly to a wide variety of people, from the aforementioned teens to women who could use some light and trite reading, browsing through a life similar enough to their own but different enough to aspire to, to people having it on their coffee-tables in a semi-ironic fashion, while finding themselves drawn into her world, and her world-view.
It’s written in a pally, congenial way, and while it doesn’t indicate any potential for a future Pulitzer Chung’s signature wit and self-awareness shines through enough to keep it from becoming too wishy-washy. There are some lovely pictures of old-school stars and cute anecdotes trying to convince her readers, and herself it sometimes seems, that she’s just like you or me. It’s been implied in some interviews that it took quite a bit of convincing and subsequently a long time to get the book together, and that she needed to be goaded into agreeing on the title. It’s this embarrassed, gawky persona she exudes that irrationally rings true that makes it; when she’s bemoaning the fact that a boy left her for some other girl with better hair, giving tips on karaoke or including her deranged and not terribly skillful illustrations it makes for comforting reading. Turning the pages from one subject to a drastically different one gives it nearly a train-of-consciousness feel, in fitting with the complicated because-they-make-it-complicated lives of Generation Y.
– Aoife B. Burke
First Published in January 2014