For Australian designer Alix Higgins, there is magic in the everyday. He finds beauty and inspiration in everything–books, music, films, people, poetry. At 29-years-old, Higgins observes the world around him with the intuition of an artist and the sensitivity of a poet. It has always been this way: “My way of working comes down to wanting to capture something intangible,” Higgins explains. “An emotion that feels universal.”
Having presented his sophomore collection at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week earlier this year in May, Higgins has emerged as a luminous force in the Australian fashion industry. His work has received numerous accolades and has been warmly embraced within the art and fashion crowd, with international cool girls Hunter Schafer and Grimes being among his early supporters.

Growing up in Otford, a small coastal town about an hour’s drive from Sydney, Higgins spent his teenage years on sites like Tumblr, where he wrote poetry and fell in love with art, music and fashion. The Internet was where it all began; it was the place where Higgins first discovered the liberating power of creativity and imagination. Digital culture continues to influence his work today. Higgins’ signature piece–a gradient-print stretch top containing excerpts from his old poems–is an ode to being young and alive in the digital age. These pieces beautifully bridge the gap between the past, the present and the future, weaving each one of these realities into a magical garment that reveals, with startling intimacy, its creator’s innermost thoughts, hopes and dreams. For Higgins, to be human is to wear your heart on your sleeve. His creations invite us to join him in this world of radical vulnerability. It seems like a nice place to be. I, for one, am diving straight in.
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You recently presented your Resort 2024 collection at Afterpay Australian Fashion Week 2023. I read that the title of the collection, Delectable Earth Shudder, was taken from a poem that you had written many moons ago. What was this poem, and how did it come to influence your collection?
I was quite active on Tumblr when I was young and I wrote a lot of poetry. When I got a bit older, I was kind of worried about my digital footprint and really wanted to clean it up and scrub all of this terrible poetry that I had written from the Internet. So I went back to my blog and took screenshots of all my old poems. I didn’t want them to be public anymore, but I still wanted to keep them. When I started working on this collection, I found one of these poems on an old hard drive. The first two lines of this poem were: “I want to feel the delectable earth shudder; remember oblivion under all of this.” The poem was about wanting to feel something really intense, something really powerful. My work has always been quite emotional, but this particular sentiment really resonated with me. My business has been growing a lot in the past year, so I guess I wanted to remind myself what my intentions were and what my creative goals were. I used the line Delectable Earth Shudder as a working title; and a lot of people told me that it was a bit clunky and that I should pick something more elegant and desirable. But in the end, I just couldn’t move away from this title. It just felt so true to what I want to achieve as a designer.
Digital culture plays such a significant role in your fashion practice. You often cite Tumblr as the platform that developed your love of fashion, art and text during your teenage years. What does your relationship with the Internet look like today? How has it changed as you’ve got older?
It’s definitely changed. I mean, I’m not on Tumblr anymore. I’m not as inclined to put every thought and feeling onto the Internet anymore. I have an Instagram for my brand, which I use both as my business account and my personal account. A lot of people tell me that I should have two separate accounts–one for me and one for the brand. Maybe one day that will be the case, but for now I like this blurring of boundaries and this closeness I have with my audience. With that being said, I definitely find myself holding things closer to my chest now. Like, I write in a book these days rather than typing poems into Tumblr. And I have all my references down in physical formats. I still have a lot of fun on the Internet, mostly via Instagram. I really enjoy that way of interacting with my friends and my customers and all the people who are following me. It’s such a nice way to show people the inner workings of running a brand.
I want to talk about the question of wearability. As a designer who’s committed to experimentation and pushing the boundaries in art and fashion, is the question of wearability a major concern when developing a collection? How important is utility to you?
The question of wearability was something that I was really afraid of when I was starting out as a designer. When I was younger, I just wanted to create these sculptural, couture pieces. I really didn’t care about the people wearing them. When I started my brand, I only had one item on offer. It was a long-sleeve tight top printed with this horizon and my poetry. Seeing people adopt this piece and welcome it into their lives completely changed my goals as a designer and my attitude towards my work. I would run into people wearing this piece at the club and on the train and in the street; and I had this grand realisation that I really just wanted to make clothes for people. When I did my first show [at Australian Fashion Week] last year, I still felt the need to do showpieces and sculptural pieces because I felt like I had to prove myself. But this year, every piece in the collection (bar a few) is going into production and will be available for people to purchase and wear. I don’t want to make art or sculpture. I want to make clothes. And I think that there’s a real gap in the market–particularly the Australian market–that separates the people who are making super commercial, boring clothes and the people who are making the kind of things that will, like, dissolve in the rain. I want to make creative clothes. I want to make magical clothes. But I also want them to be wearable because if they’re not then they have no life beyond the runway. For me, it’s all about imbuing the right amount of magic and reality into one garment, one outfit, one collection.
I’m interested to hear about how you approach design in a commercial context. How do you strike that balance between creating unique, innovative designs and meeting the demands of the market?
It’s a complex relationship, but at the same time, I think that it comes quite naturally to me. I’ve been in business for three to four years now. Taking notes from what’s worked in the past and what hasn’t has always helped me. I started my brand very simply and very commercially with only a few key styles on offer, and it just slowly grew from there. But I have always started with my emotions. I always start from a creative point. If you’re a designer and you have a following of clients and people who are interested in your brand, it’s important to realise that these people are loyal to you and the journey you take them on. I’m not too concerned about what XYZ would want from me. I’m more concerned about developing a story and a journey with my audience, and developing it in such a way that the pieces remain accessible and wearable. Luckily, I have a great group of people around me. My friends are really fashionable and have a really interesting and diverse array of styles. I often use them as a barometer for testing what I think is going to work. I’ll ask myself, Would Chloe wear this? Would Charlotte wear this? Would Joan wear this? And how would they wear it? What would they wear it with? I find this to be a good way to test the waters.
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What you just said about wanting to embark on a journey with your audience is fascinating. I’ve always thought that this is something that the Alix Higgins brand does well, and I’m realising now that it’s because you’re such a natural storyteller. I get the sense that you’re driven by a pure, deep love of storytelling–in all its different forms. You’re a designer, but you’re also a musician and a writer. I’m curious: do you think that there’s a difference between telling a story through words and telling a story through image?
That’s an interesting question. I think about this a lot, actually, because as you said I kind of have three main creative things happening at once. I design for my brand, but I also write for my brand and I write music. Having three different channels of creativity at any one time really makes me consider each one individually and the processes that make each one unique. When I’m working on a collection and designing and trying to tell a story through image, my way of working comes down to wanting to capture something intangible–an emotion that feels universal. I want to capture a feeling that everyone has encountered, or might encounter at some point in their lives. Sometimes it’s about capturing something that’s happening in my own life. I think that ultimately, designers and artists are just trying to synthesise those feelings that you can’t quite put to research. And we do it by gathering these visual references that feed into these big, universal feelings and then later pushing these visual storms of reference into existence.
When I write, I’m also trying to tell a story through a combination of all of these different, obscure touchpoints. But when you put them all together–like in a song, for instance–they start to make sense. In any case, for me, my style of storytelling is never very linear and never simple. It’s both a strength and a curse. It’s a strength because it makes my work interesting to so many different people, because there are just so many different interpretations. Last year, I remember doing interviews immediately after the show. People would be like, ‘What was that about?’ and then I’d tell them what the collection was about. But this year, a lot of people came backstage and I was so exhausted so I’d often say, “Well, what do you see? What do you think?”. And their interpretations were super interesting. It’s nice to see people try to put the puzzle together themselves. I definitely think that having that ambiguity makes things more interesting. At the same time, however, it’s kind of a curse because it doesn’t really help my relationship with suits and marketing-type people. They often just want buzzwords. They’ll want me to tell them that the collection is about community and queerness and youth. And I’m like, “Well, yes, it is about all of those things. But it’s about other things, too”.
For Delectable Earth Shudder, you drew upon a number of different sources for inspiration. Lars von Trier’s 2009 horror film Antichrist was one; A Midsummer Night’s Dream was another. You also mentioned that you had recently read Ottessa Moshfegh’s Lapvona and that you were struck by how similar the novel’s themes were to your recent collection. How much of your artistic identity has been shaped by your peers and predecessors? Do you think that creativity is ultimately a collaborative endeavour?
This is a really interesting question. I’m entirely indebted to my predecessors and the creatives who have gone before me. These people are directors and filmmakers and musicians and designers and writers and artists and photographers. In terms of my peers, it’s much the same. I’m less inspired by fellow designers, but I’m very much inspired by the musicians around me and the artists around me–just all the other creatives who are doing really cool things and occupying the same world as me. In that respect, I think that creativity is collaborative. You’re in conversation with the world and in conversation with the people who are also giving something to the world and sharing a piece of themselves with others. I don’t necessarily think of myself as a collaborative designer. I haven’t really touched on that idea of collaboration in a traditional sense yet. But I am extremely open in how I work with people. It’s about developing a mutual understanding. For me, it’s not as much of a collaboration as it is a conversation with others.
You worked with a lot of your friends on this recent collection, is that correct?
Yeah, I did. This way of working really started last year when I got this amazing opportunity to show at Australian Fashion Week. There was just no question; I immediately thought, “Okay, well, Joan [Banoit] will do the music, and these friends will walk in the show, and Charlotte [Agnew] will style the show”. I just needed to have my friends around me because they understand me more than anyone. I also feel that they represent me better than anyone. As a result, the collection and the story does feel really cohesive. The cast and the music and the styling all work together. Every aspect of the collection is so true to me because it’s true to the people around me.
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Would you consider yourself to be a particularly intuitive person?
Yeah, I do. Particularly when it comes to working with people. I just have to feel that it’s right. That’s why I tend to move quite slowly in some respects. I’ve met a lot of salespeople and a lot of PR people; but until I know it’s right, I just can’t jump into bed with someone. I’m definitely intuitive emotionally and interpersonally. And in terms of design, I always, always follow an instinct. That kind of goes back to what I was saying before about this idea of ambiguity and how it can be hard to explain my work. My work is often unexplainable because it usually comes down to a feeling. At the end of the day, it’s always just about following a gut instinct.
What does your gut instinct tell you about the state of the Australian fashion industry today? Where are we heading?
When I was working in Paris, I was working for Marine Serre. My experience working with Marine taught me a lot. One of my key learnings was that you can kind of do whatever you want. If you’re headstrong enough, people will follow you. You don’t have to negotiate too much on your vision and your ideas and your way of being in business because at the end of the day, it’s your life and it’s your work and it’s your creativity. Marine really taught me to do what you need to do. People will either follow or they won’t. But you’ll be okay. In Australia, people tend to tell you what you need to do in order to be successful. They’ll say, “You need to talk to the department stores. You need to have a traditional PR person”. They’ll recommend all this stuff that I think is quite old fashioned and transparent. I think that there’s just a particular way of working in fashion here. It’s like, you need a million dollars to start and you need a backer and you have to be doing this and you have to be doing that. But then, I look at my friends and my clients and I realise that they aren’t buying into this way of working. They don’t go to department stores because there’s nothing to buy. They don’t keep up with the traditional wholesale model. That’s why I’ve been quite hesitant to engage with this model. I’ve always said that if I can survive working directly with my customers, then I’m going to continue to do so.
That all sounds so cynical and I don’t mean it to be. I do think that there are some really exciting things happening in Australian fashion today. I mean, I really love what Jordan Dalah is doing and what all is a gentle spring is doing. There’s a lot of newness that’s really exciting to be a part of, and I think that there are a lot of young designers who are starting to forge their own paths in the industry.
What’s on the horizon for Alix Higgins? What’s your vision for your brand moving forwards?
All I can ever relate to is what happened yesterday. But I pinch myself everytime I think about where I was a few years ago compared to where I am now. I made the decision to work on my brand full-time at the start of this year, which was a really scary decision and not necessarily something that I ever thought would happen. At the moment, I’m quite focused on making the business more robust and giving my brand the time to grow. I’ve started occasionally hosting little pop-up shops in my apartment for friends and clients in Sydney. I’m really excited about this because I’ve never really engaged with my clients and customers face-to-face.
In terms of where I want to be five years from now or ten years from now, I guess I just want this to be serious. After my first show at Australian Fashion Week last year, people would come up to me and say, “Wow, that was so beautiful!”. But after my show this year, people would come up to me and say things like, “Oh, so you’re a serious designer. You’re here to stay,” and I was like, “Yeah, of course! That’s always been my intention”. I just want to be a real mainstay of Australian fashion. I want to be a big brand someday. Right now, I’m focusing on moving onwards and upwards while maintaining my strength of vision and identity.
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