Matthew Ames Goes Bold

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Published September 21, 2009

Painting is a perennial Spring inspiration, but designer Matthew Ames’s interpretation of the medium goes way beyond conjuring up splashy Impressionistic prints. For Spring 2010, the Ecco Domani winner presented a bold and disciplined womenswear collection that played out like an art lesson on color, shape, and restraint. Thanks to years of design training in Antwerp under Jurgi Persoons, Ames thinks strategically about the human form: a true aesthete, he approaches design through subtraction. With a few strokes of dramatic color–a royal blue on a sweeping one-armed sheath here, a firebolt orange underlayer on a black dress there–Ames abstracted the female figure, diffusing its silhouette into the surrounding negative space.  

Thoughtfully layered, those silhouettes often emanated a graphical sensibility. The way a painter distills his paints with oil or water, Ames tempers his color story with sheer neutrals, creating a beautiful tension between opacity and transparency. Under a half-black, half-white filmy open silk blouse, the combination a kelly green a-line skirt and rose colored bandeau top was transformed into something far more dynamic. That particular combination, and several other key Spring 2010 looks, served as fine examples of Ames’ sophisticated take on colorblocking, recalling the gradation techniques and contrasting tonal washes of serene, minimalist field color compositions by Rothko.