Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Matthew Miller's Manifesto. SS14 and beyond...

"I make clothes," Matthew Miller succinctly states as we beckons me into his brave new world for spring/summer 14 currently housed in DMSR London's central London showroom. "So many designers refers to themselves as artists and I can't relate to that. I just don't see myself as one. However, instead of me being an artist, I want to shift it and turn every single wearer into the artist. It's fun to allow the consumer to play a part in the final product." As all encompassing as it sounds, clothes maker oversimplifies Miller's pursuits. A disaffected designer, a textile theorist, a contumacious creative and a sartorial sophist are all far closer to the mark but the mere mention of any of them would make this design talent wince. Ultimately, Miller is a simple soul with a complicated mind.

For the last few seasons he has begun to challenge conventions. For spring/summer 13 he explored the concept of having to destroy something to make it beautiful and introduced it to pull-to-tear t-shirts and in subsequent collections, it's an idea that has been further refined. Matthew Miller now sees each garment as an experience. From catwalk right through to purchase, the designer considers every step.  The rulebook has been laser cut, screen pasted and masterfully manipulated in his eager grasp and this spring/summer 14 season sees the focused force unveil his manifesto.

Now his work whispers that un-sourceable quote of "artists create problems, designers solve them." That's precisely what Miller is, a problem solver. Now, having honed his technique and provided significant yet small solutions over the course of ... quietly successful seasons, the designer has begun to decipher the Miller enigma. "When I went to a NEWGEN meeting a couple of seasons back, oki-ni's Ben Banks said that he kind of got me but didn't completely understand my work. He felt that I didn't quite know what I wanted to say visually yet and that was a massive kick up the arse to be honest because he was right," he confesses. Taking this constructive criticism on the chin, the designer dived into the deep waters of introspection. "This season was a case of redefinition. My starting point was to set out a clear vision and message. Rather than just continue to design a completely new collection each season, coming up with an idea and moving on like I always have previously. The communication of objects, destruction and decay through individuality, SS14 is the introduction of a new manifesto for the brand.  It is about setting something on the path of evolution with the aim to continually strive to improve," Miller explains through excited eyes. This collection sees the designer lay the solid foundations of the brand and allow it to grow. Having looked at everything that came before, it was all about focussing the label on a fruitful future.

"I arrived at a new label. Matthew Miller has faded from direct significance. For me, my name was secondary. I needed to create a graphic identity that people would instantly recognise after a couple of years. The same as Nike's swoosh, or Margiela's stitches. That was the biggest thing this season. I didn't pass it over to anyone, it was my task and my task alone to redefine the label. I was absorbed into the graphics, fonts, spacing...everything. We worked up so many samples of the labels just to get the right feel and texture. There were no short cuts. I was conscious of this collection feeling like a luxury label. Basically, everything that buyers say London labels aren't, they often remark how much they love the creativity of the capital but are ultimately put off by price points and placement. For us, moving forward we will be carrying over entry level detailing, from collars and cuffs in our shirting so these were as considered as they could possibly be this season."

The rich identity bubbles throughout this considered collection. As the first slender, topless frame turned on its minimal stage of white, a familiar yet fresh focused force introduced itself. The proclamation ‘Untitled, Mixed Media, Variable Dimensions’ was scrawled onto pale backs and grew ever louder. The words were confidently echoed throughout a series of industrial sportswear brandishing the slogan. For spring/summer 14, the designer’s investigation into the technological versus the traditional took the most purposeful and confident step forward to date as branding is stitched seamlessly with ideology. Away from the political and philosophical broadcasts there were details to truly believe in with unfinished hems, exposed seams, cracked paint finishing, laminated labels mounted on wood and slotted onto the rear pockets of denim and wire rope and concrete combine to recreate duffel coat toggles. It might not have it on the label but spring/summer 14 is Matthew Miller

Backstage photography by Piczo, runway shots from catwalking.com and detail shots are mine.

"Everyone who has seen it has said that the collection makes perfect sense and have bought in it," begins the designer, "the books haven't closed yet but this season has already doubled on the last and we've brought on atleast ten exciting stockists," DMSR London's Greg Hewitt excitedly finishes. Ever since this design talent first came to our attention with his standout RCA MA graduate collection which explored notions of masculinity with a somewhat jovial approach to the macabre, we have kept an ever interested on Matthew Miller's continued development and deserved rise to prominence. Today, there's a noticeable maturity to Miller and a balance to his designs. The pull of creativity and commerciality are matched as Miller pushes on.

"When Topman start doing digital prints you need to work with different techniques. For this season it was taking it back to screen printing, I wanted to make it more hand made and that's difficult to replicate. The screen printing was overseen a good friend of mine, Caroline Carrig, I went to Uni with her and she works for Zandra Rhodes. I'm looking forward to working with her moving forward.

The range has been built up in such a way that stores can buy into it. We've been working hard on the quality of finish and pricing. Nothing works out at over £1,000 on the rails. It goes back to the Alexander Wang thing, you can't sell something as expensive as Balenciaga or Dior because you've not got their history and you can't compete, you have to work harder."

With his head done and eyes focussed on the future, the result is the beginning of an exciting business. "It's just evolving your perspective. If blokes wear t-shirts and jeans, how can I creatively sell them? How can I reinvent it? What will set me apart? Creativity shouldn't stop at the garments, you can creatively set up a business, you can creatively communicate something, you can creatively reconstruct something, redefine manufacturing." Matthew Miller is dead, long live Matthew Miller.


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