Studio Visit: Matthew Miller

The politically driven designer tells us "it's just fucking clothes"

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Photography by Jonnie Craig

Matthew Miller’s work is difficult to categorise. It goes far beyond the ordinary confines of fashion and instead it exists in a strange realm where youth culture, politics and style become inextricably linked. Each collection is fuelled by Miller’s own rebellious spirit – a factor that has resulted in some highly political collections. This season it is  “about creating a manifesto”,  so ahead of his SS14 show later this week, we caught up with the designer in his east London studio to discover more. 

Dazed Digital: Last season you looked at the idea of a failed generation. Do you consider your work to be quite political?

Matthew Miller: I think I’m massively political and philosophical in what I do. I actually do believe that they are just fucking clothes. But when you add something that someone can actually invest into or be a part of, then it changes. It becomes part of a generation, part of time and something that someone can always reference. You always hear a song and then remember a time, a place or an era - to actually do that with design and clothing is incredibly complicated, but if you can do it then you can grow with a generation.

DD: Where do you think this political drive comes from?

Matthew Miller: I’ve just got a voice, that’s simply it. If you could take it down to its basics, it’s something that has not been fed to me or given to me. It's just a simple voice. Everyone has got one – all you have to do is write it on a t-shirt and say what you mean.

You know how every designer says they’re an artist? That really pisses me off. You’re not an artist. So instead of me being an artist, I want to turn every single person who wears my clothes into an artist. I am not a fucking artist – you are. 

DD: What's your starting point every season?

Matthew Miller: Every collection is always based on words. I mean this collection was about creating a manifesto for a design philosophy for what I believe in and hopefully other people can believe in as well. It’s not even a complicated manifesto. I haven’t written a book – it's incredibly simple. So, I basically just go to libraries with a £25 photocopy card and find all these things that match up with words. There is specifically one photocopy I always go to and it’s a really old 70’s photocopy – we’ve used it this season. Everyone makes these really posh invitations and they are printed on really expensive paper and everything. This season, I’m sending everyone a photocopy - who cares?! I like the fact that it’s cheap.

DD: If I had the money, I would buy a photocopier just to have in my flat. I love the colours they can produce… 

Matthew Miller:  Yes, and the way it distorts the image. It always makes it more beautiful.

DD: Scanning is just not the same thing.

Matthew Miller: I think that’s another thing. In the age that we live in everything is so perfect and re touched. I love the idea of a photocopy on some shit paper with some really bad ink – the heat and the smell off it and the experience. I think that’s amazing. It reminds me of an old fanzine, you know what I mean? That do-it-yourself, fuck it mentality. It’s still beautiful and there is nothing wrong with that. 

DD: I’m interested to hear your general thoughts about London menswear. This season Burberry is returning to London, how do you feel about big brands on the LC:M schedule?

Matthew Miller: I mean I like the idea that Burberry is coming back. I think that’s great, but to a certain degree I think loads of people have jumped on a gravy train that a lot of people have worked hard for. You know, the old underground designs men have been working from since 2005 and a lot of them are no longer around. It is this generation of menswear designers who I appreciate more, not the bigger companies that now after nine years decided to come back because other people have built this. If anything, they should be thanking them. Maybe that’s what Burberry should do. They should thank Kim Jones and Carolyn Massey for British menswear. I mean, I’m happy they are here but I’m quite sad that this underground menswear scene is now being basically modified for the masses.

DD: I want to talk a bit about casting because last season you used girls as and boys in your menswear show.

Matthew Miller: I’m doing castings tomorrow actually. Our brief is always that we don’t want the obvious beautiful people. We want them to be a little bit weird. I want someone who is not the stereotypical beauty. It goes back to the photocopy – h it's something slightly different that makes them unique and beautiful in their own way.  I think that’s what we are always looking for. It’s the same with the girls. We want girls with attitude.

I think that’s another thing. In the age that we live in everything is so perfect and re touched. I love the idea of a photocopy on some shit paper with some really bad ink – the heat and the smell off it and the experience. I think that’s amazing.

DD: Is it more about attitude than it is a gender?

Matthew Miller: Yeah, I mean I’m not trying to be androgynous. I don’t think everything should be the same. I do think men and women are completely different. We want the girls to fit in with the men and be equal to the men, so they've got to have that attitude – and something striking. Not striking in the sense of being a typical page three model or on the front cover of Vogue. It's because they are slightly different.

DD: And where did the title of your collection Radical Prototypes come from?

Matthew Miller: It was actually a book that I photocopied. I was just amazed by it. It uses a 70’s typeface and I think it suits and sums up everything for the new collection. It's interesting how people read into titles.

Matthew Miller will debut his SS14 collection at LC:M on Tuesday 18th June


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