Playing with proportion, gender and textures, the unique designs from this Parsons graduate have everyone from Rihanna to top stylists excited. WGSN Denim Editor Samuel Trotman reports
If you kept your eye on the S/S 16 catwalk shows, you’ll have noticed that when it came to denim, the 90s was the biggest trend of the season. From big names like Dries Van Noten, Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs and Chanel to upcomers like Vetements, Off-White and luxe-grunge regulars Marques Almeida, they were all channeling the era’s signature skater/raver style with big, slouchy, wide-leg fits. One designer who stood out amongst these names was Australian designer Matthew Adams Dolan, who struck a particularly unique note for the season with his exaggerated tailoring.
Borne of the ’90s minimalism of Donna Karan, Maison Martin Margiela and Calvin Klein, Dolan focuses almost entirely on denim, but not in the traditional form that most are familiar with. Rather, Dolan’s dynamic designs come in cartoonishly large shapes finished off with heavy shredding and interlacing to form fabrics that look like a combination between bedraggled fur and a rag mop.
Fresh out of Parsons School of Design, the graduate designer is amongst the group of rebellious young designers on the New York Fashion Week schedule that are challenging the unwritten codes of design, from gender stereotypes to what’s even considered clothing.
Playing on denim’s unisex appeal, Dolan uses Margiela-esque proportions to make each piece demographic-free and accessible to anyone – a similar thread to that seen of NYFW newcomers 69 Worldwide. Challenging the conventions of what “sexy” really means the designer insists that sexiness stems from the attitude behind the clothing, and not how much skin you show. This ethos has attracted the likes of celebrity tastemakers like Rihanna and Travis Scott, who are regularly seen in his XXL fits.
His debut S/S 16 collection, continues on the brand’s thread for democratic design with each piece infused with a sense of comfort. Dolan looks to his upbringing in suburban Australia for inspiration, where jeans are the everyday uniform.
Overstated trucker jackets, slouchy 5-pocket fits with slits on the side and enormous utility-shirts crafted in sleek pinstripe denims are just a taste of the elevated basics Dolan creates. Additionally, the entire collection is designed and manufactured in New York City, and features an eclectic array on tones and textures – think seam pooling, terry cloth flares; a rumpled organza chambray blend; and, of course, plenty of raw, dark-washed denim – much of which is sourced from North Carolina’s fabled Cone Denim Mills.
To find out more we spoke to the young designer about his passion for denim, 90s subculture and future plans for the brand.
WGSN: Much of your design narrative starts with denim. What is it that draws you to the fabric?
I’m really drawn to the universality of denim, ideas of comfort and the mundane, how it is a fabric that is so familiar to us, to so many people across the world, and has been such a staple part of the global wardrobe. I think also a large part of why I am so interested in denim as a material is that culturally and throughout history, it has acted as a signifier to such a variety of social groups, with often juxtaposing connotations. It has been the uniform of rebels, of teens, of cowboys and hip-hop. I think especially in the context of American history and American fashion, it has really become an embodiment of the democratisation of clothing.
What era of denim inspires you the most?
So hard to choose one, though I would say 90s.
How do you pay tribute to tradition whilst moving it forward for your high-fashion and RTW collections?
For my graduate collection, the idea of tradition really formed the basis of all of my research. I was looking a lot at American craft, specifically the history of weaving in the US, from rag-rugs in colonial New England to the practices of the Navajo in the Southwest. I was especially interested in practices whereby the Navajo would trade for the discarded uniforms of soldiers, unravel them and re-weave them into traditional textiles. Taking this idea into a contemporary context, I took apart pairs and pairs of jeans, unravelling them, and reweaving them into new fabrics.
There are a lot of upscaled silhouettes within your collections. What is it about this exaggerated form that you like so much?
With the larger silhouettes I really wanted to push the ideas of comfort, of familiarity. A lot of elements of the garments came from observing and documenting the way people I would see around the city would wear jeans and denim jackets. How they sat on their shoulders, how their cuffs were rolled or collars worn, all of these elements informing the design of the pieces.
Can you tell us a little about your selection and design process whilst working on denim?
Another element that I have found so attractive about denim is the idea of tradition, that little has changed in regards to the design of jeans, and denim jackets throughout their history. Working in NY and as an American designer I wanted to continue to push this idea of heritage, moving materials forward into a contemporary fashion environment, and part of this meant sourcing American made fabric. So this has really dictated a lot of the materials that I have worked with, choosing from American mills.
As a new graduate what has the reaction been to your collections so far form press, stores etc?
SS16 was my first collection out of school (SS15 was my graduate collection shown as part of my graduation from the Parsons MFA) I have been super lucky with all of the support I have received from press, from stylists and buyers. The connections and relationships that I have made since starting the label have been such a valuable part of the learning experience!
What are your plans going forward the next season?
Moving forward with the collection, I am really interesting in pushing these ideas of craft and tradition, taking advantage of the versatility of denim as a fabric, there are still a lot of ideas I want to explore!