Matthew Ames to Please, Spring 2009

A look from Spring/Summer 2009; Matthew Ames


Midwestern-born, European-trained, now Brooklyn-based, Matthew Ames designs for the cosmopolitan American, with soft, reasonable fabrics fastened in spontaneous ways. Despite qualifying as a finalist at 2004 prestigious Festival de la Mode à Hyères in France for his menswear, Ames has spent the last four years designing shapely and architectural women’s looks. Alongside sweethearts Cushnie et Ochs and sportswear sophisticate Lyn Devon, Ames has won this year’s Ecco Domani and is making his New York debut this season. The designer talks to us about trimming the fat for 2009.

LEILA BRILLSON: You live in New York. How have you seen it change recently?

MATTHEW AMES: I always thought New York was more commercial and geared towards business. It may still be that way, but I think that there is a place for experimentation now. New York wants that. I think urban-based America is growing tired of seeing the same thing over and over. In New York, you really have to know what you are doing: It’s not just about art and ideas.

LB: You use really strange silhouettes and shapes.

MA: I am interested in ideas; I want to move things forward while keeping purity in the design, shape and fabric while remaining versatile. A lot of things can be worn as a dress, a skirt, or wrapped different ways. It’s a lot about freedom.

LB: How do your season realte. Is there a working narrtive?

MA: Each season develops from one to the next. So from last Spring I’m bringing a very pure silhouette. I try to create a balance between the fabric, the design and the draping, so I’ve been illuminating linings and buttons. Wide corduroy for texture, but also cashmere and cotton blends for volume. Ultra suede is my favorite fabric these days.

LB: The collection feels so precise. I hesitate to even ask if there are outside influences seeping into this season.

MA: I’ve been reading a bit of painter Agnes Martin’s writing. She writes about what she calls an “untroubled mind,” or being inspired by nothing. That clearness of vision really resonates with me.

LB: How about the big black cloud the recession is putting over the runway? How will we see that play this season?

MA: I think it’s a really good time for ideas. We have to fix the problems that we have and find new ways of doing things. People want to feel like they’re investing in something they don’t already have, that they wear and keep, and it’s has a lasting quality to it. Early on, when I was in Antwerp, I watched a lot of the second-wave Belgian designers (Raf Simons, Ann Demeulemeester) and realized there was a strong vision in each of their collections. Fashion wasn’t exactly fantasy; it was really thinking about what how people wear clothes. I’ve always strove for that design-consciousness; it is both quiet and strong.