Wixson Paris is the Lingerie Equivalent of The Row
The Wixson range of delicate lingerie and underwear feel like relics of a bygone era, and little wonder: founder and lead designer Sasha Wixson used to be an archaeologist. We dusted off the surface of the UK-born, NYC-based talent to find out what she’s really looking for.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 13th issue of ODDA Magazine.
Sasha, thanks for speaking with ODDA. Your Wixson range of intimate apparel caters to both men and women, with men’s vintage-style ‘union suits’ as much of a feature as your delicate lingerie. Why did you decide to design for both?
When conceptualizing WIXSON Paris years ago one of the earliest and easiest decisions was to establish a business that wasn’t identifiably gender specific. My grandparents’ layering hugely inspired me, watching as my grandmother focused on selecting the perfect underpinnings to accessorize an outerwear garment – though no one would see her selection. My grandfather, on the other hand, had a union suit for every season but he would select this base layer on climate more than occasion. He was also never without suspender belts, which he wore rarely out of necessity. So, for me, when building a brand concept based on layering it was natural to understand the use cases for both genders and to honor the fond memories of my grandparents.
You left a career in archaeology to pursue your love of fashion, studying at Parsons and then launching Wixson for S/S ‘17. What inspired the dramatic change in direction?
One doesn’t fully abandon what one is passionate about, so I never really lost my interest for archaeology. But I do have ambitions and dreams outside of archaeology that equally require exploration, and finding success in any one of them is an exercise in deduction and in focus. In my eyes WIXSON Paris does not represent a dramatic change more than it represents an extension of the juxtaposition of art, science, technique and exploration (i.e. archaeology). In the precise way an archaeologist might utilize techniques such as carbon dating or thermoluminescence to determine the origin story of an ancient civilization, a designer could draw upon the old leavers loom techniques to create the most beautiful delicate lace patterns in the world to apply to products. In both instances precision and patience pay dividends.
Your collection features delicate, hand-crafted items that have a wonderfully nostalgic aesthetic. You can tell each item was made with love and care. Is this your response to the gaudy, ‘fast-fashion’ lingerie currently on the market?
You would not be incorrect to assume the brand is consciously positioned to oppose ‘fastfashion’ lingerie. In eras past, garments required a patient hand and attention to detail by default, whereas in the ‘priced-to-move’ and ‘paradox-of-choice’ market of today these qualities are forgotten by nearly everyone except true artisans. The craft that made garments timeless influences WIXSON, but we also attempt to evolve the vintage aesthetic to appeal to a customer who appreciates both old-world quality craftsmanship and design.
Do you think people buy intimate apparel for themselves, or for their lovers? What’s the difference in their selection when they know it’s for their eyes only?
Our market research indicates women buy for themselves first whereas men are more inclined to buy for their partners first. Nearly all of the men we polled automate to some extent their underwear purchasing, a behavior we believe also presents a large market opportunity. What they select is matter of taste and practicality. Although I also recognize that innerwear serves different purposes dictated by the consumer, some viewing this purpose merely as a utility while others prioritize aesthetics over comfort. Personally speaking, I have never compromise the aesthetics, feel or comfort of my innerwear whether or it is intended to be viewed by others.
The Wixson collection is a luxury brand, with prices ranging from $120 to $15,000. Why did you choose to position yourself within this end of the market? What creative opportunities did it present?
The goal of the brand is to create the highest quality product available, full stop. We set out to offer something elevated in terms of fabric qualities and design in the innerwear / loungewear market. As WIXSON is more lifestyle oriented, we tend to create garments that also transition to outerwear like the cashmere moto pants and vicuña t-shirts and cardigans, for instance. Many of the fibres we source are very rare requiring specific licenses, while others are sourced from multi-generational Italian family-run mills. Reimagining materials and designs rarely used to produce innerwear and loungewear has led to WIXSON positioning itself on a different level.
We talk about imagining people in their underwear as an antidote to nerves. Underwear is not only intimate, but vulnerable; representing us at our most raw. Why do you love working in this space?
The opportunity to uncover a mystery or story that, at first glance, is not obvious has been a theme throughout my life. I really honed this skill as an archaeologist, I now apply the methodology to innerwear. Everyone has an untold story, innerwear is the beginning expression of that narrative. With WIXSON products, I would like to help people write their proverbial story.
In an interview with Vogue, you said that “In archaeology, minuscule details matter, and I carry the same precision with me when designing and crafting any of the Wixson products.” What other skills have you bought across from archaeology into the world of fashion?
It is often referenced that archaeologists are glorified dirt detectives. To the un-initiated a dirt mound is nothing more than a pile of dirt, but an archaeologist would seek greater meaning. The stratigraphy would indicate how many years separate one layer of sediment settled upon another, as well as determine any effects the Ice Age, for instance, might have had on composition or moisture levels. One can literally observe color and texture changes on a micro level throughout history. Yes, it is true that details matter both in archeology and in fashion, but precisely for varying reasons. Patience is the attribute that best translates between the disciplines, not being afraid to take the time necessary in order to not sacrifice quality – it is always longer than you plan. I recall one excavation at a Bronze Age site in the UK where we spent months laying on narrow planks of wood 12 hours daily patiently and very carefully excavating daggers, pottery, bones and timber that had been preserved in peat for centuries. Today, we have artisans in villages and towns in Italy and France who spend weeks producing WIXSON products with hand-made techniques that have passed down generationally.
If the quality you strive for is synonymous with perfection, it requires patience. Perfection is certainly the level of the bar I set for WIXSON.
Have you always imagined working in the underwear industry? Why did it attract you more than outerwear, which a designer may feel is more ‘seen’?
I prefer to work discretely behind-the-scenes, I do not prefer attention. I find that innerwear is a reflection of this sensibility, and while simultaneously focusing on the ‘unseen’ builds confidence from the inside. What makes a person feel really positive about themselves is inversely correlated with what the world has the opportunity to view. It begins with selfactualization; hopefully our products can inspire the ‘je ne sais quoi’ of our customers.
Sasha, the Wixson S/S ‘17 range was your debut collection. What can we expect to see next for the label?
The next collection draws inspiration from the high-altitude dwelling ancient Nazca civilization of Southern Peru, who dug over 300 trenches into the desert basin resembling mostly outlines of animals. We custom printed Italian silks with patterns based on select Nazca lines in bright blues and oranges. We also have some special Swarovski crystal encrusted and silk pieces with interchangeable silk and Calais-Caudry lace. Much of the collection transitions between innerwear to outerwear and are designed to be layered with chunky cashmere-silk knits. As with every season, there are several items that are identically produced for both Women and Men.
The theme for issue #13 of ODDA is major. So, we want to know, what has been your major career highlight so far?
While I have ‘major’ ambitions for this brand, as a relatively new designer, I am very humbled and grateful for every acknowledgement of and appreciation for the work we endeavor to do at WIXSON.
Maggie Kelly is an Australian writer with a background in editorial, fashion, and lifestyle. See more of her work on her website www.maggiekellywriter.com
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