“Asked & Answered, Matthew Ames”

**originally posted on the T Magazine blog The Moment**

photo by Shawn Brackbill for Dazed Digital

Throughout the last few seasons, the 30-year-old designer Matthew Ames has steadily piqued interest in an increasingly tumultuous fashion climate. Gaining esteem for his austere but no less luxurious frocks, the Washington, D.C.-born, Antwerp-trained and New York-based Ames has championed a new minimalism in the face of maximalist hype. T spoke with a curiously calm Ames moments before his fall 2010 presentation at Milk Studios, and later at his garment-district showroom overlooking Bryant Park…

Q.

. This is the third collection you’ve presented in New York?

A.

Yes. I was showing the collection before in Paris, doing small presentations there for about five seasons.

How has the reception been here?

So far it’s been great. The first show I did was a year ago, after I won the Ecco Domani award. That was a great opportunity: it allowed me to bring the collection to New York, which is something I’d wanted to do for a long time.

So who is the Matthew Ames woman and what is she like?

When I’m designing, I’m not really thinking about one specific woman. What’s more appealing to me is that there’s no age, to create clothes that are adaptable to different lifestyles.

The quality and construction of your clothes is impeccable, which isn’t what one expects from a young designer.

The designers I worked for before I started my own line were also perfectionists with their craft. I don’t know if you remember Miguel Adrover, but I worked for him. The craft was absolute precision — the cutting, the finishings; a lot of his clothes had hand work. I worked for Jurgi Persoons in Antwerp as well. He also did a lot of hand work, tons of special stitching, a really unbelievable amount of work that went into his pieces.

It’s as if we’ve forgotten that luxury needs to last.

They are a luxury, this kind of fashion. They’re expensive clothes. Not just in fashion but everywhere; we have so much disposable product around us, there is so much waste also. We have these cycles that move so fast. Creating something that has a lasting quality to it — that isn’t this disposable item — is important to do right now.

Is that why your clothes are so stark? They’re as close as you can get to reference-less fashion.

I’ve been working on eliminating and stripping things away. We have so much going on around us. There are so many choices, so many options, so much stuff that keeps building up, and I think that we start to lose sight of what’s essential. I’ve been working on this idea of reducing things, trying to find a new line, or a new thread, a new direction moving forward

You’ve just showed two men’s-wear looks, which is actually what you began with.

A long time ago. The collection has evolved a lot since then. I wanted to focus on women’s; I could say what I wanted to say with the women’s collection. But for me it overlaps: it’s not a different concept for a men’s collection. Some of the men’s pieces and women’s pieces are almost the same garment. It’s the same ideas we’re working with: fabric, elimination, the relationship between fabrics and the body, movement. These ideas are easily adaptable to men’s wear and women’s wear in the same way.

It’s post-androgyny.

[Laughs] Yeah, I don’t think that seeing woman in a suit reads as androgynous.

There was a brief essay printed in Encens magazine describing your work in the context of Geoffrey Beene. It suggests that you follow in a rare and distinguished American tradition.

It’s not something I think about when I design. I think there is certainly a common train of thought in the sense of American design and the idea of classic, something minimal.

As far as American designers go, are there some that have guided your way of thinking?

Absolutely, there are a lot of common threads — artists also. I would hate to say, to start giving all my secrets away.

– Jeremy Lewis

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