Lara Stone stars in the debut fashion editorial for Double Woolmark Award winner Matty Bovan
Today Matty Bovan’s hair is bright yellow. Her eyes are painted with two black curly locks that extend over her temples, and her fingernails are shiny sapphire. I see him, because he waves a hook as a pleasant greeting on a Zoom call. “I’m crocheting something for next season, keeping my hands busy!” ” he declares. “I find it really therapeutic, you know, so I kind of keep going.” Bovan is here to talk about another Zoom call that took place exactly where he is today – the studio in his late grandmother’s house in York – in which he recently won the Woolmark Prize and the Karl Lagerfeld accessory prize for innovation for 2021. been a bit crazy. He pauses. “It was just kind of two different worlds, almost. I am incredibly honored and happy.
You can see exactly what would have charmed, impressed – and quite possibly amazed – the judges of the International Woolmark Prize as they watched Matty as he explained his on-screen entry from there. He’s in York, in the north of England. “It’s funny,” he laughs. “A lot of people don’t hear it. I sometimes receive letters addressed to Matty Bovan, New York, England. But no: Bovan is a pioneer of localism, designing and manufacturing clothing outside of the fashion capital system. Only a few years ago, this seemed like an impossible match with anything the establishment could accept. Yet the extraordinary life of this gangly, multitasking thirty-one-year-old Briton is proof of the viability of what his generation believes in: local production, craftsmanship, the power of practical creativity, genderless clothing. , and a whole lot more.
Something yellow quickly takes shape in Bovan’s hands as he speaks. It is a color close to her current shade of hair, as there is always a flow between looks and ideas manifested in the extremely inventive woven, knitted and printed objects that spring from her collections. This fashion rule-breaker has been around since he was around fourteen, long before he graduated from Central Saint Martins for his Masters in 2015. Scroll down his Instagram, @babbym, and here is the Proof: Happy family from photos of teenager Matty at his home in Yorkshire in the early 2000s, with his hair streaked in red and white, alongside his mother and grandmother, who taught him how to crochet and knitting, beaming beside it.
There was an epiphany moment when her tutor at CSM MA, the late Professor Louise Wilson, reviewed her freshman design work and rejected it. The visionary teacher coaxed him, telling him that what he wore when he entered class – homemade dresses and a different experience with makeup and hair color every day – was far more interesting than what ‘he was trying to project as “fashion” for others. “Louise was adamant: you have to take pictures of what you wear every day. She told me to document it and work from it. And then it was like, oh okay, what I’m doing is valid.
In college they would say, “No, just be who you are and raise it.” I mean, it’s interesting, because I guess that’s what a lot of people are doing now.
From that moment on, with all of his dramatically intriguing self-taught collections in spiderweb, knit, fluorine and pastel colors, Matty Bovan’s cult fame exploded. Before the pandemic, models were always happy to walk for him. Her spectacular London Fashion Week shows in which the wobbly glamor of her handmade ball gowns wowed the press had the backing of stylist Katie Grand and brands such as MAC and Coach, who were keen to collaborate with him. Vivienne Westwood sat next to the designer’s flamboyant mom, Plum Bovan, on her Spring 2019 show. Behind the scenes, Westwood made sure she found the TV cameras to give her his award: “Matty Bovan, he’s a real punk, you know.”
Well, maybe Dame Vivienne was right in some ways – all cobbled together and independent British ways – but Matty Bovan’s aura is something 180 degrees out of the engulfed, swearing, and garbage-bagged rebellion of punk ago. is forty years old. His work fits into the profile of the eccentric English tradition in a very different way. Bovan has never done anything in black. He is an imaginative force founded with a politely open-minded trust in who he is
and how it works. There is joy in all the multicolored subversion he weaves, knits and prints in collections like the ocean-inspired one for Woolmark that he told Thom Browne, Tim Blanks, Carine Roitfeld and the remains of the judges who zoomed in on his front of the New York, Paris, London and Australia hall on the day he convinced them he should be this year’s two-time winner.
Part of the Woolmark challenge – and an opportunity for Bovan – was to prove how young talent can exercise sustainability while using wool; in particular, fine merino wool. “I wanted to try to explain to people that what I do is really limited,” he says. “A lot of love and time goes into each piece. I try to make everything special and unique because I think that’s also what people are reacting to now. I think it makes sense for fashion. , because it has gone from thousands of anonymously produced pieces to [a position where] people actually want to know, “How did you do that? How long will it last? Where was it made? And what is it made of? “
The scopes of the patterned basket dresses he made – pirate skirts reminiscent of ship sails – were specially designed merino wool jacquards, which he made in collaboration with Hainsworth, a long-established factory that , among other things, manufactures uniforms for royal regiments. Woolmark’s support for the project was open sesame for it. “I was never able to get a foot in the door because they were very established. I got to work with them, send artwork to be done on their digital looms, which was awesome. Unfazed from working during the lockdown, he found local women expert in knitting and crochet ‘just around the corner of my house’, boiled pots of dye and hand painted the rest in his home studio to get the colors. vivid he wanted. The rest he made from leftover threads on a manual knitting machine.
He never really thought about emphasizing his enduring credentials, but the photo-documentary video he made of his processes for the judges at Woolmark first said so. “I’ve always worked like this, but suddenly realized that maybe I needed to be more transparent about it,” he says. “I never throw anything away and the machine I have does not use electricity. I was trying to explain how convenient it is and how we work with local factories. So I made a sort of diary of it.
Perhaps that was it – proof that something so limitless creative could still be done during the confines of last winter’s lockdown that tipped the judges in Bovan’s favor. “I guess I invested so much in the collection because it was like a really dark time,” he recalls. But in a way, it brought him back to what he always was. “I remember trying to do all of this since I was a teenager, so it’s kind of like coming back to that open space, being a real handyman. I love this idea of cooking on the stove and seeing what comes out of it. When I was a kid my mom used to do this, staining the tablecloths in the garden all the time. Believe me, “he laughs.” It was very vague, because at fifteen I had no idea, but there’s still a lot of that DNA in me now. It doesn’t. isn’t really gone, because it all comes down to self-expression. “
What will he do now that he has the distinction and financial lift of the double whammy of two Woolmark Awards? “I’m still really shocked and grateful that I won, because obviously there was a team of very talented people, and you lose perspective in a way, you know, you do your best but you don’t have any idea of the outcome, “he says with typical modesty.” Now it’s just a matter of pushing any button I can think of, pushing the skills a little deeper, trying to learn one. little more about them and also try to explain more to people interested in the job. “
He doesn’t plan to return to the catwalks anytime soon, his next collection will be in film form again. And he will not leave his workshop either, nor the local network of suppliers and artisans that he has set up and on which he relies. This does not mean that his international reach as an independent and ethically creative fashion leader will be less, quite the contrary: he intends to build on this through his direct-to-consumer sales business, where he does. is located. In a world where so many young creatives think and act the same, Bovan is an inspiration for a generation. “Home is my happy place,” he says with a smile. “There is a freedom in that. And, you know, it’s fun.
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