Please introduce yourself:
Aimee Matthew-John, from Milton Keynes, specialising in Womenswear.
One of the most interesting things for me is talking to people with stories to tell. I love to listen to tales of travels and experiences and to see the ways in which these things have informed a person’s style or outlook.
I’m fascinated by the idea of clothing as disguise- becoming something/someone else by stepping into a garment or outfit, choosing a character to wear each day.
And clothing that builds history, memories, meaning over time.
Fashion aside; artisan bakers.
Where are you based?
What is it like to be a young designer in your city/country?
Perhaps the best thing is having so many people around to work with, go over ideas with, be motivated by... There are many creatives and opportunities to collaborate as well as resources and inspiration. Most encouragingly, people are excited by design and want to see what you have to offer.
In professional terms, again, there are plenty of places to start however it is demanding and difficult to sustain yourself. It can be hard to sustain a business in fashion for several reasons- keeping up with the rate of consumption and expectation, competition with larger players on the highstreet who are able to produce 'cheaper'/ faster clothing, as well as contending with the widespread perception of ‘value’. I think that designers have to try to spread an appreciation for skilled work and clothing that will last beyond trends.
What place/city do you find inspiring?
Dreaming of Kerala.
What is the concept behind your collection?
My initial inspiration comes from a love of classic mens suiting, like a daily armor- the elegance and the sheer power it conjures. I merged this with more structured women’s silhouettes from the 40’s and 50’s, making a focal point of the waist and hips. I wanted to combine, simply, elements that are both distinctively female and male.
Describe your collection in three words:
Pockets, accents, backless
The outfits of your collection appear more male on the front whereas the back is mostly more sexy. Can you describe how you created this tension between male and female attributes?
I wanted to create a relationship between male and female attributes, rather than tension- to integrate the two. I referenced features of men’s suiting that most appealed to me. Details such as a sharp pleat and crease down the front and back of the trouser, deep pockets, smooth and light woollen fabrics, then applied them to a certain silhouette- small waist and rounded hips.
The open back is not intended to be ‘female’ or a feminine sort of sexiness but more like wearing a mask. Something which can be worn to take on a role and then taken off, to be just a body again.
In 40's and 50's, a silhouette with a small waist and larger hips re-emerged and became a more iconic female symbol- defining female shape in a modern context. This symbol is still pervasive- for example in signage in bathrooms or transport and products.
For me, these silhouettes have become the quintessential female silhouette. A caricature of a woman, a woman’s body. I recognise that femininity is vast and complex, but I chose to focus on these shapes as an accessible language and a simple way to create a look that is instantly recognisable as ‘female’.
Is there a certain feeling you would like to evoke in the audience?
I want people to feel they could wear the clothes. Pieces that people could have fun combining with their wardrobes.
The garments are smart but playful- a fun way to wear a suit or a pair of pressed trousers. I always imagined the pieces could be mixed into a casual wardrobe as well as smart one. Each piece can work on it’s own; a pair of high-waisted, tailored trousers worn with a simple T-shirt, or one of the backless tops worn with a simple, straight skirt.
I imagine it would appeal to women who must appear professional but who don’t like to take themselves too seriously. Or women who have a classic, clean approach to casual dress.
Did you always wanted to work in the field of fashion?
I have always wanted to make clothes for myself, my family and friends.
When I was really young I loved dressing up. Some of my earliest memories are of rummaging through my mother’s wardrobe, wearing her shoes and trying on her clothes (miles too big for me then). I had a growing collection of my own, separate from my ‘public’ wardrobe, of textures, bright colours, prints, and I loved to draw dresses.
Since then, the clothes I’ve made are a little more structured but to me, still have that feeling of dressing up.
I think there is a discrepancy between the way male and female designers are perceived. I would like to think that male and female designers are not treated differently, however, just as in many other fields of society there seems to be many more known male fashion designers compared to the vast numbers of women entering fashion college and working in the fashion industry.
Who is your favorite fashion designer?
Yohji Yamamoto was the first inspiration for me. I really admire the full understanding of fabric and cutting that informs his designs. His clothing has a sense of balance and real elegance that I’m always in awe of.
What is so far your greatest experience in your 'fashion' career?
Working with and learning from highly skilled professionals. Specifically the cutter at Vivienne Westwood and head designers at Hussein Chalayan who are all grounded individuals with incredible knowledge and ability. The things I learned from them have completely informed the way I approach making and construction- doing things properly!
What is on your music list while you’re making your collection?
At the moment, I’m listening to cookery programs in the background; cooking from different countries, baking and programs about produce/ingredients.
Designing a bat(man)cushion for a special friend.
What is the latest thing you bought for yourself?
Wooden beads in bubblegum pink, cranberry, yellow and natural wooden stains. I don’t have a plan for them. They are just lovely.
What can we expect from you in the future?
Skirts... or Dresses...
Perhaps something edible