Boho and Be­yond

HE DE­FINED ’90S FASH­ION AND BROUGHT HIPPY CHIC TO THE CAT­WALK. Melissa Twigg TALKS TO Matthew Wil­liamson ABOUT CEN­TRAL SAINT MAR­TINS, THE BRAND’S DNA AND HIS IDEAL IBIZA GIRL

Hong Kong Tatler - - Con­tents -

Hippy chic re­turns with de­signer dar­ling Matthew Wil­liamson

My de­sign phi­los­o­phy is to make women look like pea­cocks,” says Matthew Wil­liamson. “The high­est com­pli­ment I can get about my clothes is that they make you feel pretty or sexy or glam­orous, be­cause isn’t that what everyone is look­ing for when they go out at night?”

It may sound like a sim­ple con­cept, but words like “pretty” are rarely tossed around in the world of high fash­ion, par­tic­u­larly in the avant-garde hub that is east Lon­don, where Wil­liamson works and lives. At the age of 17, he moved there from Manch­ester to at­tend Cen­tral Saint Mar­tins Col­lege of Arts and De­sign, a cre­ative hot­bed where ec­cen­tric­ity is prized above all else.

Wil­liamson im­me­di­ately no­ticed that his aes­thetic dif­fered from that of his class­mates, but he per­sisted in us­ing the bright fab­rics that would later de­fine his work. “I was 17 years old—the youngest on a course of 60 peo­ple. And everyone else was do­ing con­cep­tual fash­ion and there was me look­ing at pho­tos of the Rio Car­ni­val,” he says. “I have al­ways wanted to de­sign clothes women feel at­trac­tive in, that make them look bet­ter, which was a weird con­cept at Saint Mar­tins, as I’m pretty sure I was the only per­son with happy thoughts there.”

Wil­liamson’s feath­ers, se­quins and bold colour pal­ette may not have won him the ad­mi­ra­tion of his peers, but his me­te­oric rise to fame af­ter grad­u­a­tion has be­come fash­ion folk­lore. In 1997, Wil­liamson ar­ranged his first cat­walk show and some­how per­suaded Lon­don It girl Jade Jag­ger, daugh­ter of Mick, to model for him. She asked her friends Kate Moss and He­lena Chris­tensen to join her, and their pres­ence at­tracted the press. The day af­ter his show, Wil­liamson went from un­known fash­ion grad­u­ate to house­hold name, ap­pear­ing on the front pages of na­tional news­pa­pers and touted as the ‘one to watch’ in glossy mag­a­zines.

“If my ter­ri­ble mem­ory can re­call, it was a fab­u­lous time, but it was all overnight—one minute we weren’t known, and the next we were,” he says. “We had to man­age our steps very care­fully, partly be­cause we had a tiny

de­sign team and partly be­cause we didn’t want to sat­u­rate the mar­ket. I also needed to make the hype more about the dress than the girl who was wear­ing it.”

We meet for cof­fee at Café Gray Deluxe in the Up­per House on a rainy sum­mer’s day, but Wil­liamson is happy to rem­i­nisce about his past while look­ing out over Vic­to­ria Har­bour. “I could sit here all day. I think this is an in­cred­i­ble city,” he says. “The en­ergy here is over­whelm­ing. I imag­ine you could get ad­dicted to it. I also love the way women dress here. It’s groomed, but it’s still in­ter­est­ing and I’ve no­ticed there are a lot of great shoes around.”

In Hong Kong, Matthew Wil­liamson is only stocked in Har­vey Ni­chols, but the brand hopes to open a stand-alone store soon. “My clothes tend to be pop­u­lar in hot coun­tries,” he says. “When I de­sign my pieces, I al­ways think of a beau­ti­ful girl in Ibiza or In­dia with this won­der­fully jet­set life, and I know that look would work here.”

Nonethe­less, Wil­liamson has at­tempted to move away from his dis­tinc­tive Boho style in the past year. “I do think it is im­por­tant to have that sense of clar­ity and be su­per clear about what your brand DNA is,” he says. “How­ever, at times it can be suf­fo­cat­ing and frus­trat­ing. Peo­ple have such pre­con­cep­tions of what we’re about; even when there’s noth­ing In­dian or eth­nic in the col­lec­tion, they still put the same things in the re­views.”

He con­tin­ues, “Re­cently I de­cided to do some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent. I thought about my Ibiza girl and de­cided that, un­for­tu­nately, she prob­a­bly has to leave the beach some­times and go into an of­fice. So we de­cided to imag­ine her en­tire wardrobe, from cock­tail dresses to coats and jackets. When I went back­stage be­fore the show, it was like be­ing in Anita Pal­len­berg’s bed­room.”

With a col­lec­tion of wall­pa­per com­ing out for Os­borne & Lit­tle, Wil­liamson is also look­ing into the won­der­ful world of in­te­ri­ors. “I love dec­o­rat­ing my house, so I thought, why not do it pro­fes­sion­ally? My own home is def­i­nitely Boho, but in an or­dered way. Or­dered Boho—ac­tu­ally, that’s a great way of de­scrib­ing vir­tu­ally ev­ery as­pect my life.”

“I HAVE AL­WAYS WANTED TO DE­SIGN CLOTHES WOMEN FEEL AT­TRAC­TIVE IN, THAT MAKE THEM LOOK BET­TER”

this is eng­land From top: Matthew Wil­liamson in Lon­don; a look from SS/’ 14

great style From top: Looks from SS/’ 14; Caro­line Wil­son, the Bri­tish con­sul- gen­eral, with Wil­liamson at an event to pro­mote the best of Bri­tain

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