Matt Singer Carries All Kinds of Tunes

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Published March 2, 2010

PHOTO BY MATT LOW

 

In the past few years the Jack Spade diaspora has produced variously intriguing new ventures in art and advertising, fashion blogging, and, with the recent launch of Matt Singer’s eponymous label, an eccentric new (dare we say, Spade-ian) lifestyle brand. Having spent nine years at Jack, which he helped launch with Andy Spade after working with him at the Chiat Day advertising firm, Singer left the brand last winter to produce the things that he’d want in his “wonder room.” “I don’t think I’m special in this regard,” he modestly told me last week  at his Lower East Side studio, which is decorated with Saarinen furniture, a wall tacked with inspirational (and strikingly odd) news clippings, and samples from his collection and various collaborations. 

For the latter, you might recall the book he produced of The Paris Review‘s interviews with William Styron to help boost the journal’s subscriptions. He also got the Parsons School of Design’s Illustration department to base this year’s theses around superhero alter-ego stories written by Brooklyn grade schoolers, and teamed up with Soho-based eyewear designer Selima Salaun for the non-profit-benefitting Project Selima & Matt, which produced a limited-edition pair of frames with an inscription written by Jonathan Lethem for The Thing Quarterly last fall and a forthcoming pair of “invisibility glasses,” out this month at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.

“If you’re cursed with having silly ideas and the need to share them with people that’s what you get,” says Singer, whose decidedly less silly fashion collection just dropped at the newly opened Project No. 8a at New York’s Ace Hotel. Among the highlights are unisex two-ply, double-stitch cotton oxford shirts with plackets that stop just above the tastefully rounded hems, decoupage ashtrays with the images of the Soviet space dogs Laika, Belka and Strelka (which also adorn his hang tags), handmade cotton belts (in turquoise, purple, salmon, navy and yellow) that feature a little monkey stamped on the inside of the suede fasteners, and his signature line of 22 ounce cotton canvas bags—a weekender, briefcase, and tote – that boast nicely weighted waxed cotton handles and a cheeky logo featuring the planets being orbited by a tetherball sun. “It’s probably Jack-ish,” admits Singer of the line. “But I think by doing some of these things for so long I’ve learned how to make them better. I’m not someone who’s going to buy a new bag each season, so it’s really about making great things.” Also included under that rubric is a selection of well-curated (and not overly-priced) vintage watches, pencil bags handwoven out of discarded plastic bags by a women’s collective from the West African nation Burkina Faso, short films produced by Singer and his friends, and a selection of titles from Idlewood Books that can all be found on his similarly well-curated website. “It’s like my version of This American Life,” says Singer, who one day hopes to open his own store. Until then he’ll be rendering ideas from his wellspring of esoterica, like ornithologist John L. Bull’s obituary, or the once-secret bowling alley inside Henry Clay Frick’s Fifth Avenue mansion. “I probably won’t be making a bowling bag called ‘The Henry’ anytime soon,” laughs Singer. “But that’s what I’m drawn to—an interesting obituary, a life well-lived and how to do that.”