Five short months have slipped by and we’re right back in the thick of Fashion Month. We can pretty much all but disregard New York now, what was once a beacon of hope for the Fash Pack is now a beeline for commercialism. We might see the odd glimmer of brilliance, this season it was from Tom Ford as he dug deep into his archives for inspiration but really London is where Fashion Month truly begins.
Day one held promise, real promise in fact. First on the agenda was Bora Aksu and his army of whimsical space fairies; a very hard act to follow and an uber strong opening act. Bringing up the rear however was Matty Bovan. Known for his eclectic style pallette; his FW19 show came with a back story that hooked me in from the word go, or to be more precise, from the words: In Uncertain Times, This Is A Sure Thing! Let me explain…..
In late Autumn last year, a letter slipped through the mailbox of Matty Bovan’s front door, addressed to his deceased grandma. He opened it to find an odd claim, promising to becalm the nerves of recipients with the sale of warehouse furniture. Unsettled by its rhetoric he photocopied the last eight words. At the 11th hour, he had alighted upon a title for his Fall/Winter 2019 collection: In Uncertain Times, This Is A Sure Thing! The strange act of contacting the deceased, and the sheer tenacity of further suggesting the purchase of a Draylon three-piece suite might solve all woes felt too irresistible to resist. Had the fabric of British civilisation come to this? “I mean,” he sighs now, “how creepy?”
Already, sinister thoughts had been afoot. Germinating through Matty’s mind while assembling the rich, strange, dark, tempestuous and even occasionally – whisper it – pretty collection was a flavour of wilful witchiness. (Exactly my style – you were thinking it too right Voyeurs?!) He spent six months researching the Pendle Witch Trials of 1612, obsessively reading about the Lancastrian massacre against mysticism. He became consumed by folklore and myth. “Really a lot of this stuff is just about healing and ritual, stuff that has been twisted and spun to try and control people. Folk traditions are quite bizarre but there’s documentation of them actually happening.” In the end, it came down to the idea of what constitutes modern magic. “This is just a way of thinking about the past, the present and the future. I’m sceptical about magic, of course, which in many ways makes it all the more fascinating.”
Could this be the reason Liberty of London reached out to him in October, just as he was finishing his knitwear, the cornerstone of any Matty Bovan collection as we know it, inviting him to visit the Liberty Fabric archives, where he subsequently selected their Tana Lawn pattern, scaling up the tiny graphics to find the wizardry and magic in the colour blend, while turning the collection into an exploration of Englishness, as divined through his unique eye, moving the colloquialisms into a new stratosphere. Waxed fabrics have been etched with nails, leaving random impressions. The ballgowns of Spring/Summer had mutated into polymorphous shapes, cut against the leg, into the hip, bolstered with tulle and foam padding. His significant print this season? The unmistakably English dragon. I mean how fabulous is that?
A Liberty Fabric print blouse, in four different colourways, with shoulder frilling and an Edwardian neckline is almost quintessentially Helena Bonham Carter in its Englishness. “This is the sort of thing most people start designing,” he says. “For me, it’s a kind of an extremity.” He might send it down the catwalk back to front. “It works as a jacket, too.” His sense of playfulness and anarchy remains undimmed. A waxed kilt comes at what he calls “schoolteacher length.” Where others like to test the limits of their design eccentricity, Matty began prevaricating on the possibilities of his hitherto unseen conservatism.
When he sat down to talk about the headwear, made by Stephen Jones for COACH X Matty Bovan, this season featuring Coach Signature tapestry fabric, he used the phrase “hats through the ages” to creative director Katie Grand and peerless milliner Stephen Jones. “That made everybody laugh.” Until it made sense. Katie Hillier has fashioned collectable outsized keyrings for the collection, as well as hair scrunchies and bows in Liberty Fabric prints. And trust me Voyeurs, scrunchies are big news again this season and beyond.
There is a message in everything in this collection, one print from the knits is taken from the impression of a grit-bin found in Manchester. A local wood-turner has made jewellery from chair spindles and bracelets which were worn as armlets by the models including current supermodel Adwoa Aboah, this particular craft continues into talismans which were held by the models and shaped by Matty’s mother. If ever there was a collection to come out of something so pure, this is it.
The collection is based on heritage and that much is clear, however Bovan’s kooky spirit shines through and none of that eclectic edge we’ve come to know, love and expect has been diminished. Every single look is planned in it’s entirety from the headwear to the accessories making Matty something of a connoisseur when it comes to creativity. The shoes were a collaborative affair, having been planned with everyone’s favourite nineties shoemaker Gina. Gina for COACH x Matty Bovan footwear also features Coach Signature fabric, as well as GINA for Matty Bovan footwear in clumpy sludge fake snakeskin, cappuccino-coloured stack lace-ups, and the fabric of a thigh boot looking something like a luxurious diesel slick.
There aren’t many designers who can pull together a collection, a show, associated collaborations and a full-scale set piece to create an immersive atmosphere based on just eight words. Matty Bovan I salute you. This was one of the best.