London Collections: Men: An interview with rising young designer Alex Mattson
Subversive East London designer Alex Mattsson presented his SS13 menswear collection this past weekend during London’s inaugural stand-alone men’s fashion showcase, London Collections: Men. Prior to his presentation, The Upcoming chatted with Alex about his fashion back-story and how he handles life as a fashion designer and the challenges it presents.
TU: Hi Alex, tell us about yourself and your background?
I was born in Gothenburg, ‘84 to a Swedish father and a Colombian mother. I grew up in Oslo, Norway and moved to Kent in 2004 to study fashion design at UCA Rochester. I went straight on to a Masters degree in menswear at the Royal College of Art from which I graduated in 2009. I’ve been working on my East London based label since.
TU: How has your fashion career progressed thus far?
In every way. Every collection has opened new doors and connected me with amazing people. One of the highlights would be doing the Selfridges Bright Young Things project where I designed a window display and stocked my stuff in the menswear department. My upcoming first live presentation during London Collections: Men is currently the pinnacle of my short career all thanks to Red Bull for believing in me and making this happen.
TU: What is your creative/design philosophy?
I have many! Depends on my mood and current inspirations. In general, my work is always set in a parallel dimension. Fantasy based on reality. Fiction basically.
TU: You are half Swedish, half Colombian, grew up in Norway and now reside in London. How has this shaped you as a designer?
I feel like it’s actually freed me from feeling the need to represent my cultural background. I don’t really feel “at home” anywhere. I’m from all over the place and that allows me a deeper understanding and acceptance of other cultures. Having said that, for the moment I don’t really feel inspired by cultural heritage; I find youth culture, sci-fi, music, myths and fantasy much more inspiring.
TU: If any, who are your inspirations and icons in the fashion industry?
Azzedine Alaia is a big inspiration for his outlook on the industry and its pressures. He does things his way and refuses to cater for a fashion industry spinning out of control in order to generate as much money as possible. Designers are going nuts, developing drug and drink problems and depression all in the name of high fashion. It’s mad. Alaia believes that creativity can’t be forced and if you are producing i.e. 8 collections a year, chances are that the designer is spreading his vision, inspiration and sanity too thin.
TU: Can you tell us about your current collection and what is in store for SS13?
After watching 4 whole seasons of History Channel’s Ancient Aliens I was hooked on documentaries about aliens and UFOs. A documentary called Out of The Blue about the top 5% of unexplained UFO sightings and encounters really inspired me for SS13. The collection became a mash up of the many colours of the sky taken from the endless UFO footage I’ve been watching and the military uniforms of the soldiers involved in a lot of the UFO encounters. There will be plenty of dreamy colourful prints and a general laid back, summery feel about it.
TU: How do you achieve a balance between your unique creative vision and the commerciality of the business of fashion?
I’m still figuring that one out. I’m at a crossroads right now where I have people’s attention and they want to see the label evolve into to a business. When you’re studying you focus solely on your development as a creative. You don’t realise that running a label probably involves 10% designing and the rest is sewing, business, interviews, emails, etc. It feels like your creative talent is a given. The real question is whether you can tackle all the other stuff.
TU: Do you feel the commercial aspect of fashion hinders you in your creative scope in any way?
Not really, it’s a challenge. Commerciality and creative innovation both hold energy in different ways. I love making more commercial pieces for its “I-would-totally-wear-that. I-need-it. I’m- buying-it” energy. When I make “showpieces” they become milestones on my experimental journey through beauty vs. grotesque, complexity vs. simplicity, wearability vs. creative innovation. It boils down to fantasy vs. reality. I am yet to find the right balance between the two.
TU: To you, what is the most important aspect of being a fashion designer?
Having a vision. A creative vision can function as a “life formula”. As you explore more of your creative being, your vision becomes clearer and can be applied to any aspect of your life like a mathematic formula to an equation.
TU: When you are designing, who do you envisage; who is the Alex Mattsson wearer?
TU: Who, if anyone, would you most like to work or collaborate with in the future?
Ray Kurzweil. He’s respected as the most accurate predictor for future technological developments. If the calculations in his books are anything to go by, we are in for a hell of a ride over the next century. It would be really cool to work with someone that knows what’s next so I could make tomorrow, today.
TU: What is next for Alex Mattsson?
Evolution, a more commercially balanced label and whatever comes my way.
At his SS13 presentation Alex Mattsson continued to play upon his fascination with all things sci-fi and extra-terrestrial, but in a much more refined manner showing a more mature collection that fused elements of sportswear with the influence of military uniform, particular stand out pieces being the leather bomber jackets and oversized suiting. The resulting collection is one well-suited to the off duty crew of Battlestar Gallactica or the hip young blade with a taste for louche yet stylish sportswear.
Alex’s show was made possible with the help of Red Bull; giving wings to make platforms for young designers and emerging talent possible.
Ian Michael Turner
Photos: Courtesy of Alex Mattsson