That Matthew Miller – the London based menswear label debuted proper by its namesake in 2011 under the Fashion East umbrella – has produced womenswear for SS16, is nothing new. The designer, originally from Stoke-on-Trent, has cast women in his shows for several seasons now, adorned not just in menswear looks but female specific silhouettes.
This season sees Miller push it further however, with more looks as well as an actual, womenswear exclusive look book, pictured above. “It’s grown enough in size to have its own voice and communication,” the designer tells Clash.
“Initially I did it (filtering two looks into the SS14 collection) because of the limited resources of the fledging business; it is easier to design, manufacture and distribute a very tight and cohesive collection. The womenswear allowed the business to seem larger without cannibalising the core collection that we were able to create.”
And from a design perspective, is there any variation in the process? Womenswear allows control to be lost he asserts. “Menswear is formed through a very strict set of rules and codes of conduct. It is very formal in its nature and was historically built on the foundations of war.”
For its part womenswear has “far more freedom to be extreme, but is perilous in its form as a disposable commodity and highly competitive. Men are very brand loyal; women are far more experimental.”
The Matthew Miller design philosophy – as per his website, Facebook page and LC:M biography – positions fashion as a product akin to ceramics or furniture, balancing simple manufacturing values with an artist’s approach to craft. This same regard for his trade similarly occupies Matthew’s approach across all aspects of the brand, from the projects he puts his name to to the casting for his shows.
Miller is not, clearly, the only designer to place a revised focus on womenswear in 2015. Contemporaries like Christopher Shannon and Kit Neale have likewise penetrated the fold in the last year. So how does he feel about being part of the club? “I don’t think the rules of multi billion pound fashion houses apply to us newer designers, and collectively we’re all starting to realise that.”
“Why play the game,” he continues, “when we can change the game! We don’t need to show eight different collections a year; we don’t kneed to show across four fashion weeks. Who made these rules? Certainly not young designers. We just need to design great stuff and show it in the way we choose to show it. Fuck the system or the system fucks you!”
Rejecting the streetcast nature of previous projects (namely the SS15 Age of Consent campaign for which The British Army Cadets were tapped), for his first womenswear look book the designer was drawn to Storm’s Maddy Elmer. “She has an incredible look,” he states, “There is a sense of innocence in her portrait, something that is fragile and new. Very much the same as the collection itself.”
Quite. The pieces – think jackets, skirts, trousers and dresses in shades of navy and a nude erring pink – are primarily of a crushed texture, semi-tokenistic leather jacket aside (the style is one of the label’s most iconic), softly scrunched as if carrying on the reverse an unrequited love letter.
Shot by Joe Harper, the images are look book apparent, that is (as per their practice) easy to read and highlighting the key markers of the line-up. “This is the first time we worked together creatively,” confirms Miller of Harper, “Joe has a lot of talent. We also worked with Liam Gleeson and James Moriarty on some moving images, with whom I usually work to make films.”
Perhaps inevitably Clash finishes with the most bog standard of questions, enquiring who exactly the Matthew Miller girl, or woman, is; what’s her point of view? Where’s her local? What’s she pairing with her minimalist dress next season?
Words: Zoe Whitfield