Matthew Miller’s designs attracted me first with his alliterative name. Then, on Mr Porter, I saw an interesting sweatshirt of his that made me think. Not too often do single items of clothing make me think. It had a silver foil cover on the chest pocket that needed to be ripped in order for the pocket to be used, implementing function in destruction. It upturns the usual design philosophy of creating, adding something functional. Also, it is what you want the item to be – more concerned with style or substance? Or are both ideas interlinked and ripping off the cover is trivial and the jumper still looks good without it? The wearer gives meaning to the clothes in the actions he takes, making a sweatshirt an existential conundrum of values and principle.
“The communication of objects, destruction and decay through individuality. SS14 will be the introduction of a new manifesto for the brand.”
The individual streak is very present in the art and design world, areas closely linked to fashion in practice that I think he is integrating and burgeoning ideas from in SS14. His designs are often called ‘post-industrialist’ , which is a glorified simplistic view of his minimalistic clothes that pack a punch. Industrialism is all about the movement of creation from man to machine, whereas human processes and thought is exactly the resource he is advocating with Radical Prototypes.
He did a very interesting thing in using things mostly devoid of any meaning relating to fashion or clothes, but put them together to achieve an exciting whole. Appropriation, or so as it’s called in art (examples include Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades or Jeff Koon’s banal reproductions, is exactly this and can have intention with no hidden meaning or critiques or the opposite. Seen on the back of the bare-chested opening model with the words ‘Untitled’, ‘Mixed Media’ and ‘Matthew Miller’ (best seen in the LC:M video of the show), and ‘Dimensions’ and ‘Variable’ added to the next model’s front, it raises questions. Appropriation through clothes could be a new frontier for the existence of art, so is he mocking the idea of appropriation? Or using it as vessel for own brand? I think it is more that he connects words and visual aspects readily and vehemently to further the technicality of his clothing.
Mr. Miller has said, “Every collection is always based on words. I mean this collection was about creating a manifesto for a design philosophy for what I believe in and hopefully other people can believe in as well.” The design philosophy he speaks of works in two ways as a manifesto for spontaneity, on the title he said, “It was actually a book that I photocopied. I was just amazed by it…It’s interesting how people read into titles,” and recognising the transformative quality of movement and human interaction, as he continued, “YOU KNOW HOW EVERY DESIGNER SAYS THEY’RE AN ARTIST? THAT REALLY PISSES ME OFF. YOU’RE NOT AN ARTIST. SO INSTEAD OF ME BEING AN ARTIST, I WANT TO TURN EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO WEARS MY CLOTHES INTO AN ARTIST. I AM NOT A FUCKING ARTIST – YOU ARE.”
It makes these clothes snarkily rebellious, as it gives back power to those who buy the clothes in making them all a little different in the frayed hems on coats and dresses and striking simplicity that works as well as it does on men as it does on women. The words also come into play here as when a sweatshirt like in look 5 is worn it superimposes a description of the person as the art. It makes a subversive point in such an image based industry, that words are always just as powerful as images. Simple, deadly and a bit self-indulgent if worn; I think also the idea of the garment is a very relevant, powerful and highly charged one in direct contrast to the perfectly produced and preened imagery that pervades fashion perpetually. It challenges the excess of fashion and suggests that it can be as minimal and ‘nothing’ as possible because the person is most important to any outfit. The individuality is mainly presented through the striking models, whose attitude comes through the runway photographs. Most are androgynous and I think he casted the models like this because gender ambiguity, even if slight, makes the collection wider in its ideological scope and beings personality to the utilitarian styling.
Minimalism has many advantages in thoughtful design because it limits distraction from the concept. Mr. Miller only used black, grey or white, in different combinations but mostly with one colour on its own, in SS14. In doing so, he made the simplicity a statement because, paradoxically, while not actually having anything of obvious interest to an onlooker it focuses attention on the items themselves creating something to look at even if there isn’t much in the first place.
It is fair to say that this collection is more conceptual than traditionally impressive fashion. I think minimalism in menswear is seeing a resurgence with more attention paid to either the personality of the clothes or those wearing them. This collection does something different in its restrained aesthetic yet highly charged and philosophical outlook on fashion, both testaments to an ingenious designer.