Matthew Williamson’s Mix-and-Match Girl
At last night’s launch for the debut autumn/winter collection of his diffusion line, MW, designer Matthew Williamson fit right in—he sported a pair of electric-blue trousers whose color also popped up here and there in the collection itself. The blue was joined by bright, friendly corals, oranges, and floral prints: a refreshing departure from the dreary hues we usually expect from fall collections, but not a surprising one coming from color-happy Williamson. With price points way below the four figures his main line commands, MW represents accessibility both financial and sartorial–you don’t have to be a movie star to wear the collection (you could just be, say, her younger sister).
While guests at Williamson’s boutique admired the collection, sipping grapefruit Belvedere cocktails and paying their respects to launch party co-host Dree Hemingway, we stole a few minutes with Williamson to talk about his “off-kilter” style icon, fashion’s new immediacy, and how he really feels about press releases. LEFT: DREE HEMINGWAY AND MATTHEW WILLIAMSON LAST NIGHT
ALEXANDRIA SYMONDS: I read that the inspiration for this collection is the sort of biker-chic urban girl who goes to her cabin in the woods for the weekend. And honestly, a lot of times, I think that sort of thing sounds like bullshit—but I can really see it in your collection!
MATTHEW WILLIAMSON: You mean you think press releases are bullshit?
SYMONDS: Absolutely, I do.
WILLIAMSON: I’m not afraid to agree. I think that fashion designers think it’s something they have to do—it’s a selling tool. I’m with you, with the honesty. I’ll be as honest as you will.
SYMONDS: Well, perfect.
WILLIAMSON: But it isn’t bullshit. It’s little sound bites to suggest, on a mood board, that’s the starting point for a collection, to think of this English eccentric girl who’s having her downtime—it’s not about a red-carpet collection like the main line. It’s not about, necessarily, conventional glamour and jet-set and things that come to mind with the main line. She’s having her day off, and she’s in her log cabin, and it’s as truthful as I could get!
SYMONDS: What do you see her doing there?
WILLIAMSON: I don’t know. I haven’t really created a fantasy girl, I think it’s just about staple pieces that are for a young, urban, contemporary woman. That’s why many of the brands, whether they be designer brands or high-street brands, make pieces in that mix. She’s eclectic, she’s spirited, she wants to look cool and make a statement with her wardrobe.
THREE LOOKS FROM MW BY MATTHEW WILLIAMSON’S AUTUMN/WINTER COLLECTION.
SYMONDS: A lot of designers shy away from color for fall, but you’ve got this beautiful coral and this electric blue. Is there any particular reason those were the colors you zeroed in on this season?
WILLIAMSON: There’s never really a reason, I think. It’s just an evolving thing. One of the things I am known for is color and color combinations—that’s a kind of strength of the collection. It’s not about a base of black and then colors on top—I work the opposite, it’s, “Shall we put black in?”
SYMONDS: [laughs] Some of the shapes were a bit of a departure for you—the shrunken sweaters, for example. Can you speak to that at all?
WILLIAMSON: It’s just playing with proportions, and I worked with this amazing stylist in London called Valentine Fillol-Cordier, she’s quite a big stylist in the UK, she’s French. And her style is quite nonchalant and quite haphazard, in a sense. So I was inspired by her random approach to how she puts things together—maybe it’s not random, but the proportions are a little off-kilter, the fabric choices are a little odd. Yesterday, she had on a mohair sweater on—I was in London, and I was in a taxi with her going on a shoot, and everything she had on shouldn’t have worked, but it just did.
SYMONDS: I think we all aspire to be that kind of woman.
WILLIAMSON: Yeah, that kind of like, “I just threw it on,” but it kind of works. So I was inspired by that—you might get it wrong, but it’s about playing with fashion. It’s not to be taken too seriously.
SYMONDS: You’ve been an advocate of diffusion lines for some time—or if not an advocate, you’ve at least been willing to embrace them sooner than a lot of designers did. Do you think the democratization of fashion is, in the end, good for fashion?
WILLIAMSON: We’re in business, aren’t we? We’re working in an industry that is about selling a product. Whilst fashion is presented as this very glamorous, elitist offer, I don’t see why good design can’t happen at all different price levels. You see it on other industries, whether it be home or—whatever industry. It’s about price! You need a certain income to be able to afford this kind of product [gestures to his main line]. But that’s not how I’m made, to think that that’s only it. I think, why not?
SYMONDS: Do you think fashion still is an elitist venture? Now that every girl who wants one has her own style blog…
WILLIAMSON: No, I don’t. I look at journalism, now, everyone can be a journalist, can’t they? There was a time not so long ago when you would wait for Vogue to come out once a month, and that would be your porthole into the fashion world. And it’s the polar opposite now—everybody has an opinion, everybody has a point of view and is able to voice that opinion. So I think it’s not only in product—it’s across the board.
SYMONDS: I think there’s a heightened expectation of accessibility, now, too. For a designer, for example, it’s no longer that you show your collection twice a year and that’s all you have to offer the world. You have to be more accessible all the time. Do you ever feel like that hampers the creative process?
WILLIAMSON: Fashion’s not so cyclical [anymore]—it’s no longer about a spring/summer show, and then you wait. It’s so immediate. The digital age is something that you have to embrace, whether you like it or you don’t. It’s this insatiable desire for product, and immediacy, and needing to see the next thing. It’s something that you can’t really shy away from, because it’s the way things are.