There’s been a shift in the fashion industry lately, have you noticed? An interest not just by consumers, but also designers who are creating more season-less, essential pieces. A steady stream of cool new, and not so new, brands emerging from a collective interest in a simpler way of moving forward, something we seem to be partial to here in the studio these days. February is, among other things, Fashion Month. In all its chaos and vanity (which I certainly still love and appreciate) it’s also a moment for us to introduce you to the brands we feel reflect the timeless sensibilities.
At the end of the day, I find myself wearing the same pieces I’ve loved for years. My perfect pair of Levi’s, my favorite black boots that have just the right amount of toughness, a blouse with a refined and subtle classic pattern, and a simple pair of sterling silver earrings. What all of the designers we love have in common, is that ability to create these types of pieces woman will be drawn to not just today, but for all the years they will own them.
Brands like Sophie Buhai, whose knack for creating object-like jewelry started a near revolution in the jewelry world with her enduring styles woman and girls alike clamor after. Or Maryam Nassir Zadeh’s sensible heeled sandals and ballerinas that had the fashionable set rejoicing, after years of over-designed, sky high heels left them searching for something simpler, more wearable. And of course the girls of Mansur Gavriel who brought to light the need for a bag without logo, without adornment, but with the determination to be both chic and reliable.
A strong aesthetic goes a long way, and today I’m happy to share a look into the minds of three women creating brands we lust after not just for their impeccable design, but for their intuition at knowing exactly what we will want to be wearing forever.
Ilona Hamer, Designer of Matteau
Why do you think more people are drawn to a minimal aesthetic, and in turn a simpler way of consuming?
I think the world is greatly overwhelmed with consumption at the moment. There is lot of compulsive, unnecessary and environmentally taxing production that occurs, so from the beginning, it was about eliminating anything we felt was excessive about swimwear and bringing it back to what we call “zero.” It’s funny because we never used the word “minimal” to describe what we were doing. It was more about making it as clean, comfortable, and “nothing” as we could, so we tend to describe our aesthetic as more as “neutral” than minimal.
I think there is a big shift in the way the modern girl or woman thinks about consuming clothes with the barrage of information that is thrust at us everyday on social media. There is the appreciation for talent and beautifully elaborate pieces, but in reality when you have to get on the subway or you want to go swimming and not worry about crazy tan lines and things falling off, you just want something you can rely on. That is where our energy is focused.
Why has the brand made the decision to not show during fashion week?
We think swimwear fits into its own world, one that doesn’t necessarily translate as something that should be a full show on a runway as it always tends to feel a little off no matter how tastefully it is executed. We like to be very particular about how we are represented, and for the moment our priority is to focus on intimate dinners & showing with friends of the brand and media.
Also, as a warm weather brand, we have chosen to produce two collections a year – Resort and Spring/Summer. While we have certain deliveries, we want to work on year round product that isn’t particularly season focused and as a result, part of our design ethos is that each season feels like an extension from the last. We aren’t about fast fashion or hyper consumerism, we just want to be reliable and focus on a “less is more” model.
What are a few brands you personally admire and feel fit in this category of classic, modern essentialism?
I think Christopher Lemaire and Sarah Linh Tran are brilliant at creating interesting classics. As someone who is always on set or running around the city, I like my wardrobe to be able to work with me and withstand a little wear and tear but still have a finesse to it. It’s quite specific to the New York lifestyle, so lean toward brands like Toteme, Protagonist, The Row, Sophie Buhai, Levi’s, Christopher Esber – elevated and irreverent classics that you can really be yourself in.
Do you stick to this sort of lifestyle at home too – thinking more of function and beauty rather than excess?
Absolutely. I always try to maintain a less is more approach to all aspects of life because at the core of it, we need so little to be happy. I try to keep my wardrobe tightly edited and our apartment as well, mostly because living in New York its somewhat restricted by space, but I really like to try and keep everything simple and low fuss.
Quality over quantity is always something we strive for within Matteau and I like to apply that to day to day life as much as possible.
How did growing up in Sydney help to sculpt the way you went about creating the collection? Is there a certain philosophy you have when it comes to designing for Matteau?
The lifestyle in Sydney is unlike anywhere in the world. We really have such a privileged existence in terms of being able to enjoy the ocean and environment but also be in the hub of an inner city within moments.
The beach and ocean is such an integral part of most Sydney-siders day, be it a swim or surf before work or a walk on the beach to work out. We have perfected the art of spending a day at the beach and going straight to dinner or drinks, so I think that definitely is apparent in our ideas. So much so that most of my friends who wear Matteau always end up texting me to tell me they are wearing our bikini tops as bras even when they haven’t been to the beach!
Why do you think that more people are drawn to the minimal aesthetic and in turn, as you mentioned, a simpler way of consuming?
I think it’s because of where the world is today. It’s not even a question of spending money, it’s more just a new way of consuming that is changing the fashion scene. A friend of mine said something to me last week that rings very true, it makes more sense in French “La mode n’est plus à la mode”(“Fashion is not fashionable anymore”). For me personally, it’s because a lot of interest is shifting to environmentalism and technology and fashion has to live in that world too, it’s related.
Do you find your interests are more the same or different than they were, say five years ago?
So different! Five years ago, I was a designer at Balenciaga and I was really into Nicolas Ghesquiere’s design which I still like but not in the same way. I’m a mom now and I’m less and less into super high fashion. I’m more into super classic and standard. I’m looking for the perfect jean, the perfect shoe. Five years ago, I was looking at Prada’s latest runway show and running to the store to pre-order the shoe of the season. Now that I left ready to wear and launched my own brand of jewelry, I’m taking very classic and perfectionist approach to objects.
What other brands do you personally admire and in your opinion, fit into that category of essentialism and sense of refinement?
For my perfume, I like Byredo. I love the brand; it’s simple and minimal, I think its beautiful. I like what Jonathan Anderson is doing at Loewe. I’m very, very fond of Knoll, I can spend hours in the shop, more than a fashion store!
Your brand’s imagery for each season is very clean and consistent. Who is the woman you see envisioned in this combination? How do you see her evolving as the brand continues to grow
I approach my jewelry like molding a sculpture, it’s not for me a fashion accessory. It’s more something that you might want to keep and pass down. When you’re not wearing it, maybe then you can sit it on the table next to a beautiful ashtray or a vase and maybe you’re going to give it to your daughter or to someone special to you so there’s something very sensitive in the jewelry. It’s in between the object and the fashion and the small sculptures. This is what I like in my work, and I love to see my customer as a collector.
You have really large versions of your jewelry, which is a very cool object to have around.
Yeah, I really want to turn some of them into a lamp. Today, I am more into objects. If tomorrow I had to expand my brand, I think I would be more than happy to expand it to objects. Maybe like a lamp or a knife and fork that would fit within my line.
Why do you think people are drawn to a minimal aesthetic and a simpler way of consuming
Perhaps the sense of calm it offers. I think that simplicity offers an escape from all the noise. When things are stripped back, precision and function become paramount. It’s an aesthetic clarity that’s so much harder to reach as a designer and much more pleasing to the eye as a consumer. Not to mention the ease of wear it carries with it.
Do you stick to this sort of lifestyle at home too – thinking more of function and beauty rather than excess? Does designing for Protagonist influence your lifestyle at home?
Absolutely! When I first lived here 7 years ago I had just a mattress on the floor, a desk and my suitcase. Living like this was so liberating that I’ve tried to maintain that feeling since. And then working at Calvin Klein certainly solidified it! As for our design studio, we try to maintain some order, because it certainly keeps the mind focused, however fashion is a messy, material heavy practice, so the piles of cut fabric and scraps of pattern making paper are inescapable and necessary. This has its own kind of accidental, messy beauty which is precious in its own way and it keeps us inspired.
The brand has such strong imagery for each season, adding to the signature subtleties and modern sensibilities. Who is the woman you see envisioned in this combination and how do you see her evolving?
Protagonist was built around the notion of the woman being the main proponent and character of her own story, and the need to offer an evolving, seasonless and timeless wardrobe of essential items for this women to work in, to go about living her life in, and find her voice in. We are surrounded by so many incredibly dynamic women here in New York with specific needs and refined, sophisticated tastes. We are inspired by and hope to cater to the needs of these women and beyond, those who are feeling more empowered than ever with the recent turn of events.
How has your aesthetic and personal inspiration changed & evolved over time? Do you find your interests are more the same or different than they were, say 5 years ago?
I’m such a creature of habit, boringly so! I’m writing this from Paris and I find myself going to the same galleries, cafes and bookstores picking out the same books that I would have 5 even 10 years ago. This time the excitement comes from finding the rare, “no longer in print” version and then the thrill of finding something completely new along the way.
That said, I am so excited by new ideas and thoughts. We couldn’t maintain relevance if we were not willing and able to listen, to evolve and to stay modern and timeless.