The fashion designer Alejandra Alonso Rojas grew up in Madrid, inspired by her family’s deep-rooted history. As a fourth-generation hand-knitter, she grew up surrounded by powerful women. Today, her concern with preserving craftsmanship, advocating for equal rights, and helping others is exhibited in her eponymous label.
Recently, Alonso Rojas responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by donating 30 percent of her online sales to two food-based organizations—God’s Love We Deliver and No Kid Hungry.
Whitewall caught up with Alonso Rojas to hear how she’s doing amid the global outbreak, her ongoing sustainable practices, and how her family tree inspired her most recent collection.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing amid the pandemic? Where are you gaining hope or inspiration?
AAR: I don’t really know how I’m doing. Everything it’s so surreal. I am trying to stay strong for my family and keep us safe and healthy, that is my main priority right now as well as keeping my team safe.
To be honest, I am only looking for inspiration and creativity in ways where I can help people. Can we produce masks or hospital gowns for the hospitals? Can I do any initiative right now to raise money to help my company survive this and help other people in need? I am not designing right now and it’s okay. The priority is for all of us to be safe and take care of those in need.
WW: Tell us a bit about your recent response to COVID-19, donating 30 percent of all online sales to God’s Love We Deliver and No Kid Hungry.
AAR: I wanted to help those in need, who have a shortage of food—sick people, elderly people, children who depended on their school lunch as their main meal. I wanted to help, and these two organizations are providing food, which is so important to stay healthy right now. That’s why I decided to donate 30 percent of all of our e-commerce sales through May 30.
WW: Tell us a bit about what you’re working on now.
AAR: I am working on making sure that my team is safe and that the company can make it through this for the long run. I am planning on launching special drops with archive sales every week. We have never done this before, so it will be a great opportunity for people to buy from past collections at very remarkable prices helping to support my team during this time.
WW: Tell us a bit about preserving Spanish craft with your brand.
AAR: My main inspiration is my family story, rooted in generations of pioneering women from Spain. I grew up in Madrid all my life until I was in my twenties. Spain is in my DNA; it’s who I am and my biggest influence while I create.
WW: You are a fourth-generation hand-knitter. Tell us a bit about how you combine traditional and experimental knitting techniques to create unique pieces.
AAR: For me, knitting is something natural that I have been doing since I was 4 years old. I love knitwear and this is a core category for my brand. Every season I like to push it a bit more, hand dyeing pieces, embroidering with silks, knitting with pearls… There are so many possibilities. Knitwear for me is a lifestyle.
WW: Tell us a bit about the women in Madrid that you looked up to during your childhood.
AAR: I realized how fortunate I was to have them around me when I was older. Growing up, I took so many things for granted, bu they fought for equal rights, divorce rights, education rights… Even when Spain was so conservative under the dictatorship.
My great great aunt Africa was the first woman pilot in Europe. My grandma went to college; same as her sister. She worked in radio and advertising and her sister became a surgeon who practiced in New York for years. My mother was also a huge inspiration—model, chef, and painter. Always following her passion and fighting for us to follow and work hard for our dreams.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about your responsible and sustainable efforts?
AAR: We are all about reducing waste, not over buying fabrics, recycling leftovers into different projects or collections. Using natural and floral dyeing to make one-of-a-kind fabrics.
WW: Can you tell us a bit about your most recent collection?
AAR: For my Fall 2020 runway collection, I embraced mother nature by gathering discarded roses, eucalyptus, and hibiscus leaves to use as the foundation for the silk fabrics I create by hand. This technique of rolling, steaming, and then freezing each yard of petal-embedded silk results in a one-of-a-kind motif, so that (much like snowflakes) no two garments are ever the same. This season, the saturated colors of Francisco de Goya’s portrait of Dona Teresa and the calm minimalism of Marguerite Kelsey by Meredith Frampton particularly spoke to me.
My most important inspiration, however, continues to be the strong females from my Spanish family tree. A portrait of my Great Aunt Pilar, taken in the 1960s on the streets of New York City, was especially prominent on my mood board this season. Enveloped in a colorful striped scarf to shield her from the old, this intelligent female surgeon appears powerful, chic, and the embodiment of casual luxury.