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MATTHEW WILLIAMSON - THE INTERVIEW

Ahead of our Vogue Fashions Night Out event with Matthew Williamson tomorrow evening, we asked the prolific desginer a few questions about his inspirations, his latest collection and what it means to him to have the seminal event re-locate to his hometown.
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1.Tell us about your AW13 collection - what were your key influences?

I looked to Northern Scandinavia where I was inspired by the native Sami tribe’s folklore and ceremonial dress which is evident in the weaves, rich brocades and texture layering throughout the collection. Despite my girl this season being an adventure-seeking traveller, she retains her English eccentricity and a sense of nostalgia, this is evident in the rose motifs that feature throughout the collection, adorning prints, brocade and embroidered on sweatshirts.

2.How has the Matthew Williamson label evolved since your first collection? / How do you see the brand evolving?

It’s certainly come a long way since 1997, back then I was working out of a tiny bedsit in London to produce my first collection, Electric Angels. I now have a team of around 50 staff, we produce 4 womenswear collections per year and have made the transition into a luxury brand with a global presence. Last year we celebrated the 15th anniversary of the brand which I’m hugely proud of as I think that I’ve remained true to the ethos - or what I call the ‘DNA’ - of our brand throughout this time. The Matthew Williamson girl still has the same spirit, she still loves vibrant colour, print and attention to detail, she likes to stand out from the crowd even though she’s now a bit more grown up and sophisticated.

3.You are famously inspired by your travels - where is your favourite place in the world and how has it inspired you?

That’s a difficult one as I love to explore new places and I find inspiration wherever I go. When I first started designing I visited India many times, I was so drawn to the hot vibrant colours, the exoticism, the artisanal techniques and beading that played such an influence in my first show. All these elements still play a part in my collections today but I try to visit new places every year; I’ll never get tired of travelling!

4.What is your design ethos? / How do you approach the start of every new collection?

I always have a starting point for a new collection, sometimes I have a clear idea that’s broad, or it can be something as arbitrary as a type of flower that I want to include on a print, or a piece of street art that I’ve seen and loved, or the tapestry on an old cushion. I work with my design team to realise a concept, then further research is collected from different mediums: photographs, film, excerpts from books or magazines, vintage samples, swatches or trinkets. Then I work on editing down visual references onto moodboards. Once the inspiration and concept is clear I begin sketching and this is a part of the process that I love most.

5.You’re renowned for your use of vivid colour and print – what inspires this?

I’ve always been drawn to vibrant colours, but I enjoy playing with the colour palette and placing opposing colours together. I like the juxtaposition of bright, neon colours with cooler hues: fluorescent lemon highlights on dove grey, acid green against deep midnight blue. For me, print is an easy way to wear a wider colour palette, I’ve been working on almost photo-real digital prints up until recently but the new Spring Summer ’14 collection revisits hand-drawn illustrative prints which look fresh and contemporary in their naivety.

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6.Whose style do you admire and why?

My style icon is Frida Karlo. I always loved her unique sense of style and her paintings, but when I visited her home in Mexico City a couple of years ago the bold use of colour really resonated with me and has inspired me so much since – I’ve even named one of my handbags after her. In general though, I like girls whose style isn’t too ‘done’, girls that dress to suit their personality and it appears effortless. Sienna Miller, Dree Hemingway, Arizona Muse and Isabel Lucas all have this innate sense of style.

7.You grew up in Chorlton - what does it mean to you to have Fashion’s Night Out come to Manchester?

I’m thrilled Fashion’s Night Out is in Manchester this year. I still have a very strong connection to Manchester, my parents and my sister and her family live here so I visit regularly. Manchester is a buzzing city with its finger on the pulse culturally so it makes sense to me. I think Manchester women take pride in their appearance, they love fashion and know how to have fun with it.

8.Who would you most like to see wearing one of your designs?

One of my greatest thrills is seeing women trying on my clothes and loving how they look in them. I’ve only ever wanted to make clothes that make women look and feel beautiful no matter who they are. From spending time in my store I know that there isn’t a particular type of women that shops there and I love that diversity.

9.What is your favourite fashion era?

I’d have to say the 70s. When I think of the 70s, I think of a languid, laid-back style that’s super glamorous. I’m drawn to the notion of romanticism and the free-spiritedness that I think underlies a lot of my designs.

10.What is your must have purchase this Autumn Winter 13?

I think the floral folk group epitomises this season for me – the brocade is thick and luxurious for winter, and I love the hints of metallic and neon highlights with roses, my flower of the season.

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