Alexa Chung: 'I feel better on days I wear makeup'

From all-night karaoke sessions to skincare staples, Alexa Chung fills us in on life in lockdown…

Alexa Chung

As one of our all-time biggest style crushes, it’s tough to imagine Alexa Chung slumming it in leisurewear like the rest of us, and reader, it turns out she’s definitely not. Here the model, designer and Code8 brand ambassador fills us in on shunning tracksuits for rediscovered wardrobe staples, cooking up a storm with her boyfriend and late-night karaoke sessions…

Where are you isolating?

I'm in East London. Because all the shops have turned into grocers it’s kind of how I dreamed London would be. If you take away the imminent threat of mass contagion, it’s actually kind of charming! I have my boyfriend so we're OK. I have friends who are on their own and I think that's a different experience.

Have you found any positives to the situation?

Honestly, I think taking a break from travelling as much as I used to has been a rest in itself. It's been really nice to be in one place and one time-zone and have some continuity in my life. I’ve also got into cooking - I’m probably eating more than I ever have because when you're so bored, you're excited to have something to do! I start thinking about dinner at breakfast. It’s not like I’m living in a ‘ration-y’ way, but I'm mindful that I don't want to go to the shops more than I have to. So I'm finding recipes to use up, like a rogue leek or something. I can't say all the experiments have been great, but I made toad in the hole last night with leftover Yorkshire pudding batter and some sausages from the fridge and I've got to tell you, it was stunning!

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That sounds like a hug in a meal…

It was so cosy. My boyfriend was like, ‘This is the most delicious meal you've ever made’. I was like, ‘It was also the most straightforward one I've ever tried, thanks so much.’

Have you jumped on the leisurewear bandwagon?

No! I don’t think I own any leisurewear. This is what I’ve bought in lockdown - workout stuff. Live The Process have really lovely kind of half-workout, half-real life clothes and you can wear them under dungarees or whatever. Then other than that, I’ve been wearing a lot of dresses around the house because I don’t have to worry about being cold. If I'm going on a bike ride - which I did yesterday - then I put a ‘full look’ on because I'm so excited to see other people. I'm like, ‘Oh my god, here we go!’. I wore white flared jeans, a broidered anglaise top and a red lumberjack thing and then aviators, which looked really dorky with my helmet.

Well, you’ve got to make the most of these opportunities haven't you?

You really have! Also I was really lucky – literally just before we went into lockdown, my brand [Alexachung] launched this capsule range, which is all about the essentials you need if you're doing a trip and want to live out of a suitcase. So I've been living in that everyday. We’ve got really nice slip dresses and navy blue jumpers and that kind of nineties Calvin Klein look, which is quite nice for the home.

Tell us about your beauty routine in lockdown, are you wearing makeup?

It depends. I definitely feel better on the days I do wear it because it's more that you're setting out your intention to be a real human that day [laughs]. It’s just the basics, so concealer, mascara and lip gloss, nothing crazy. Unless I’m filming for my YouTube series in my house when I’ll definitely put a bit more on because it needs it. I think over Zoom it's quite hard to look nice without slapping it on, it’s a really brutal format.

alexa chung

Code8 Lash Sophisticate High Definition Mascara, £25.00

What about skin – are you giving it a bit more TLC?

No. Sometimes I forget to moisturise, I've really turned savage. Before this happened - about two weeks before lockdown - I made a video with Rio Viera-Newton about holistic beauty products so I managed to pinch some of those. I use this Dr. Loretta face wash which is so nice. It's really plain, no perfumes or whatever in it. Then whatever moisturiser I find in the house because I'm kind of running low at this point and need to reorder, but I can’t be bothered to wait in for the delivery men all the time. I wear Weleda Calendula Face Cream or Augustinus Bader, depends how fancy I'm feeling that day. The other day I had skin irritation on my eyelid and I put the green Weleda Skin Food on it and it cleared it. It's really good!

How would you describe your approach to beauty?

As much as I try, I don't have the patience to put on multiple things and really pay attention to how it's being slathered on. I’m very fortunate in that if I do have a big event then more often than not I'll ask for a makeup artist to do my makeup because I want it to look a certain way. But if I'm doing my own beauty I wear light foundation every day, blusher and I curl my lashes. And of course I have a kind of go-to cat’s eye skill which thankfully I'm quite good at! I'm someone who picks eyes or lips, I don't really like a ‘full face’. I think there's a bit of fatigue as well around that. It was fun to watch that explosion in the beauty realm of all of these amazing artists come about and show you how to completely re-craft your face based on makeup, but that's just not my beauty ideal. I always look to people like Lauren Hutton or Jane Birkin, all of my icons have a quite natural approach to beauty.

alexa chung

Code3 Blush Palette, £32.00

What can you tell us about working with Code8?

I'd worked with a makeup artist called Ciara O'Shea who'd been using their products on me when I was getting ready for red carpet things, so I knew about it through her. Then I met the owners and they were super sweet. We have a similar approach to beauty - they want things that make the best of your skin and makeup but in a fool-proof way. It’s not a 27-step contouring tutorial! They're great at keeping it grounded and pretty straightforward, but still very beautiful and simplistic. When you meet the women behind it it makes sense, they're very chic.

What are your top three beauty products?

Code8 have a Radiate Beauty Balm which is like a vitamin-infused BB cream type thing, so it’s a very light foundation and I put that on as a base. Then I curl my lashes and add mascara. I do love blusher because I'm literally deficient in sunlight at this point - I need to put the blush on to pretend I've actually seen the outdoors. We’re all going to come out green…

alexa chung

Code 8 Radiate Beauty Balm, £39.00

Are you not a fake-tanner, then?

No, I can't. I think because I'm mixed race I can't find the right colour. My tone is like an ostensibly Caucasian white but it has like a slight sort of yellow undertone so it's quite hard and it just immediately looks fake on me. I remember years ago when I was a teenager I did an advert for something in South Africa and they had to fake tan me for it to look all sunny and I came out literally orange. We had to halt filming for a while while they scrubbed me down. That was a mistake.

What about fragrance, what’s your favourite?

In the Burlington Arcade, there's that Frederic Malle shop where you can squirt perfume in a chamber and see what it smells like on you. Anyway I got one after like an hour deliberating in there. I bought Rose and Cuir which is leather and rose, it’s so nice.

You mentioned your bike, is cycling your main form of exercise at the moment?

Yeah because it’s got a basket on it, so it's quite nice to stop by a grocer and pick up vegetables etc. But I’ve got to tell you, I'm a really nervous cyclist. There's still a bit of traffic around here on the main roads and yesterday I got into some trouble where I tried to overtake a parked lorry, and then the door opened on me. I was like, ‘Argh!’. So I’m trying to keep to the back roads because it's quite scary but other than that I've just been doing mat work – squats and planks and all those good things.

Have you been doing any YouTube workouts?

Not really. I did Ballet Beautiful for years so I kind of know a few of those routines, so I've just been doing that. I haven’t got into the Joe Wicks thing. I need a slow, calm lady in a nice outfit telling me what to do.

How are you staying motivated in general, or is your motivation flagging?

I still have a business to run so I think that's quite motivating [laughs]. It's obviously a different time but it's quite fun finding out ways to make the YouTube series, or designing clothes or creating content for our Instagram and stuff. Most days I have bits and bobs to get through with that, so it's less ‘motivation’ and more ‘necessity’.

How are you keeping in touch with loved ones, are you a House Party fan?

Yeah, I have different things for different friends. So there's obviously the quiz zone and then I have two girlfriends and we just FaceTime each other in a three. Then other ones, I use Zoom calls and I just like an old-fashioned phone call too. My siblings all live quite near me, so then I do a cycle by and wave from the gate. My brother just had a baby so I have to stand far away.

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What have you discovered in lockdown that you hope continues?

I cook more than I did before. And I think people are just generally a bit friendlier - a bit more patient and a bit more grateful if you have interaction with anyone. Everyone's been quite kind to each other I think, and that sense of community that has come out as well. Like, people dropping off banana bread or whatever, it’s nice.

Some of us are meeting our neighbours for the first time, too.

Well, yeah! Unfortunately, I found my karaoke machine the other day, and I plugged it in and we did karaoke about about 2am. The next day I saw my neighbour and she was like, ‘Karaoke last night?’ And I was like ‘Whoops, sorry about that’.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

I don't know, because we kind of ran the gauntlet…I’ll try anything.

What have you learned about yourself during this period?

That I don't necessarily need to be busy to the point of stressed all the time. I think there's a misconception - by me and others I work with - that I'm someone with an attention span that needs to be occupied, otherwise I go crazy. But when I have time off, I just feel way more relaxed.

That’s interesting, do you feel calmer now then?

Yeah. I can't believe we all operated on the frequency that we did. But I think that’s quite a London thing as well, or a ‘city’ thing. My parents are in the countryside in Hampshire and I doubt they've had such a change of life as we have.

What’s the first thing you’ll do once the restrictions are lifted?

I think dinner with friends - a really boozy dinner with like, eight people!

Are you apprehensive at the prospect of returning to ‘normal’ life?

No, I'm kind of jazzed. I certainly miss friends, the pub, office life…. those kind of interactions. Especially if you live with someone - you need to do stuff separately in the day so you have some chat at night! Otherwise, I'm not like, ‘What have you done today?’ as I literally see him all the time! I'm not anxious about going back to normal, but I don't think things will go back to ‘normal’ anyway. I loved what we were up to before - going out, dinner parties, parties, events…oh man, come on!

Sophie Goddard is the Entertainment Editor of Marie Claire UK, as well as working across other titles in a freelance capacity. She has over 10 years journalism experience working on both digital and print platforms and prior to Marie Claire, worked at Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazine. Sophie writes about a number of topics, specialising in celebrity interviews and features. At Marie Claire, she is responsible for booking and interviewing cover stars and other celebrity interviews and is always open to pitches from publicists (she is always open to discussing sausage dogs, too).