Matthew Williamson: 20 years in fashion
Matthew Williamson is a British designer known around the world for vibrant, chic-bohème designs that incorporate his signature recipe of kaleidoscopic prints, intricate embellishments and luminescent colours. Now, as the designer reaches his 20th year in fashion, it seems that the Matthew Williamson of the future might be very different than the brand we’ve come to know.
Williamson graduated in 1994 from the famed Central Saint Martins, where he studied fashion and print design. From here, the designer’s career was on an upward trajectory – just three years later, he had founded his eponymous label and shown his first collection, Electric Angel, at London Fashion Week.
Over the next few years, Williamson was showered with awards and nominations, receiving global acclaim for both his own label and his collaborations with companies such as Debenhams and The Rug Company. In 2004 he opened his flagship store on Bruton Street in London, and since then has enjoyed a time as creative director at Emilio Pucci, as well as many more collaborations with global powerhouses such as Coca-Cola, Smythson and Swarovski.
Recently, however, you could be forgiven for thinking that Matthew Williamson and his brand might be slowing down. Earlier this year, he closed his Mayfair Flagship and hit us with the announcement that he would not be showing a collection at London Fashion Week spring/summer 2016.
Initially, this sounded like bad news for the house. However, our worries have well and truly been dispelled as Williamson has outlined just what he wants to do next – and slowing down is the last thing on the list.
Williamson recognises that the industry is changing. More importantly, he recognises that the way people shop is changing. After 20 years in the game, he knows that he has to address these changes if he wants to keep up with his clientele.
As part of this, he has transformed his former distribution centre in Queen’s Park into an office and showroom, which also features an archive of every single dress he has created over the course of his career.
With this intimate setting as the new hub of the Williamson Empire, the house intends to provide a tailored-for-you service for each of its customers. The Queen’s Park office will play host to private appointments and customer events, but more significantly, it aims to build a relationship with the increasing number of Williamson customers who choose to shop online.
One of the many ways that the internet has impacted the way that we shop is by encouraging a culture of want it now, buy it now, wear it now. One of the reasons that Williamson closed his flagship was so that he could focus all of his energies on this newly demanding online shopper.
Instead of creating one major collection every six months, he intends to dripfeed smaller collections throughout the year. With this model, customers will no longer have to wait six months between seeing a design on the catwalk and seeing it hanging in their wardrobe. Pieces will be available to buy immediately, and Williamson will be able to design for now, rather than for several months in the future.
Away from the fashion side of things, we can also expect a range of different creative ventures from the designer. Over the course of his career, Williamson has explored various areas of design, particularly interiors – his collaborations with The Rug Company and wallpaper designers Osborne & Little are well known.
Now, he aims now to branch out further, into stationary and greeting cards, as well as furniture design and – perhaps unexpectedly for Williamson – activewear. Fashion design may well be how he made his name, but after two decades, it seems it’s not only about the clothes anymore – the future of Matthew Williamson is lifestyle.
So yes, this is anything but the end. 20 years in, Williamson is still attuned to the changes around him, and he’s willing to take risks in order to keep pace with those changes. That is not slowing down – that is a sign of growth.
Photo: Erol Birsen