Alexia Genta on launching a brand during a pandemic, specialising in handcrafted headbands

Alexia Genta discusses building a top-tier alteration and tailoring service in London, handcrafting headbands and what it was like growing up as the daughter of one of the world's most respected watch designers

In partnership with: Alexia Genta

6 July 2020

Alexia Genta, daughter of master watch designer Gérald Genta, launched her bespoke alterations business in 2017 after being left disappointed by the below-par services available in London, and realising a gap in the market for a personalised, couture tailoring experience within a comfortable, luxurious environment. Today, Alexia Alterations is considered London's best-kept secret, catering to businesswomen, celebrities, brides-to-be and London's socialite set.  

When lockdown took hold, Genta parlayed her tailoring skills into handcrafting headbands, created using upcycled materials. Thus, Géraldine London was born, specialising in sustainably-made, exuberant hair accessories. Each one is hand-sewn by an expert seamstress and headbands are designed to be supportive and comfortable, thus avoiding the dreaded 'headband headache'. Genta is donating 20 per cent of all sales to Women's Aid, a charity that provides support to female and child victims of domestic abuse.

Below, Genta discusses hemlines, headbands, learning from her father and what she is missing most during lockdown.

I have been spending lockdown in my flat in London with my husband. I am lucky to live very near to Hyde Park so I have been able to take long walks and enjoy the sunny weather.

Before launching Alexia Alterations, I worked in marketing for various companies including Smythson, Pret A Manger and Unilever. Whether luxury or mass-produced, I have always loved marketing because it involves creativity. 

Alexia alterations

I was inspired to launch Alexia Alterations after saving enough money to afford my first beautiful dress. I remember it so well: it was a gorgeous Dries Van Noten silk piece. I was so proud to be able to treat myself and I wanted it to fit me like a glove. I took it to the tailor that was most recommended to me by my mum’s friends. They were supposed to be the best – catering to celebrities and London's high society. 

When I arrived, I was so disappointed. It was a dark little place with a dusty carpet and a fitting room with a curtain that wouldn’t close properly. The tailor was eating a sandwich and did not wash his hands before doing my fitting. I was heartbroken to see little grease marks all over my beautiful dress. The work done was average, the thread colour didn’t match and the fit was so-so. How was it possible that this was considered the best alterations shop in London?

At the time I didn’t really enjoy my corporate job and I felt a little bit stuck, so I guess that subconsciously the wheels were turning. I started asking affluent ladies where they went for alterations and they would all say, 'never in London, I take them to Paris or Milan,' or 'I had the worst experience in that place'. I felt there was a real need in London and became obsessed. One year of sewing lessons later, Alexia Alterations was born. Our seamstress previously worked at Ralph & Russo and, two years on, the business is in a place where it is doing very well.

The first dress to really stand out was a lace Oscar de la Renta gown, which was bought in a size eight and needed to be a size 14. We managed to find matching fabric and let the dress out by three sizes. We have also created a made-to-measure dress for Claudia Winkleman, which was worn on Strictly Come Dancing. That was a huge moment for us. 

When Italy went into lockdown, I knew I had to get ready for a similar scenario in London. I needed cash to come in and my freelance seamstress needed her job. The problem was that she works in a tiny space at home, so I had to find something small to make and sell. With a treasure box full of couture fabrics and an experienced seamstress, I decided to create Géraldine London, a luxury headband brand.

We offer bespoke headbands, including bridal options, and we are also looking to expand the business with elegant, elevated silk scrunchies.

I cannot wait to return to the Royal Opera House to watch ballet. I had so many tickets booked, including Swan Lake with Natalia Osipova. I am so happy to be able to visit my favourite fabric shops again and to go back to my atelier from 6 July.

Without a doubt, the restaurant I have missed most is Fifty Cheyne. I think about their roast every Sunday. I miss my everyday Cappucino at Greenspeares on Walton Street and a bellini at Olivo Carne on Elizabeth Street.     

I think both my parents have been a huge influence. My father, Gérald was a watch designer and the best in his field. He was a pure artist and viewed the world in a completely different way. He was quite an unconventional father, and would often tell me to stop doing my homework and go draw or look at nature. My mother is completely different. She is incredibly rational and a very strong businesswoman. She kept dragging me back to my books when my father was pulling me away from them. I have always watched her manage people with kindness and empathy and I hope I inherited this from her. My father taught me that people will always pay for quality – never sacrifice quality.  

Headbands from £65, geraldinelondon.com

alexiaalterations.co.uk