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Photography by Sybille Walter

Matthew Ames

Matthew Ames talks to Dazed about his A/W 09 collection...

Matthew Ames yearns for purity. Not purity in the religious context, but purity in clothes; a world without linings, without buttons, without zippers and without seams, if he can. With each collection he gets closer and closer to this prospect where his imaginative balloon-imitating shapes can bathe in their minimalistic beauty. This past week for New York’s Fashion Week Ames took an innovative jungle of exaggerated kimono-like jumpsuits, dramatic veils, and extra-roomy harem pants to his debut runway. 

The talented 29-year-old, who studied fashion design at the Art Institute of Chicago, has already garnered a steady fashion following. Though, with previous fashion stints under Antwerp avant-garde Jurgi Persoons, coming up as a finalist at the esteemed HyËres Festival just a year after graduation, and, most recently, the 2009 recipient of the Ecco Domani Award, proves all the chatter around Ames is firmly grounded.  Today his designs test the limits of sculpture elegance with clean intentions that come to life with practicality.

After finishing school in 2003, Ames left the windy city for a surplus of yellow cabs and got acquainted with fast-speed New York City life.  Living in Brooklyn, he worked as Miguel Adrover’s design assistant until launching his namesake line in 2005.  The initial collection held to an aesthetic of bold, geometric shapes with cocoon coats large enough to siesta in, and many balloon-rounded shoulders, but despite the heavy patterns hints of Ames’s streamlined simplicity were starting to shine through.

On a fashion-craved Sunday Ames took an intimate crowd away from the over-accessorized Bryant Park and into his immaculate achievement.  Large billows of fabric were wrapped around models fastened mainly with loops and ties, creating a classic sense of drapery with volumnized shapes, and unpredicted pants slits.

DazedDigital: Did you have any earlier aspirations in fashion design besides school?
Matthew Ames: Not very much, I was actually at a liberal arts school for three years before I transferred to the Art Institute, and I was doing art there, and I was always interested in fashion but I took me a while to figure out how to pursue that.  When I went to A.I, I knew right when I started that I was going to start in the fashion department, and it ended up working out in school for me.

DD: How did working with designers like Jurgi Persoons influence your own collection?
MA: When I worked for Jurgi, I would say, that was a big turning point for me, just being in Antwerp at that time; it introduced me to a whole different mindset, and way of thinking about fashion and clothing that I had never seen before.  There are ideas in clothing and really creating an individual identity, but also clothing that relates to people’s lives in some ways, and some sort of usefulness, it’s not just making clothing about ideas or conceptual kind of things, they are designing something for people’s lives, something that people can use.  I think there is a balance of that in Belgian designers.

DD: How did you translate your experience with Jurgi into your own clothes?
MA: Well I was still a student when I went to work for Jurgi, so I went back and finished my last year in school and really started thinking about a more individual identity.  I was thinking about my work in terms of clothing and not just an idea but also as clothing, and dressing.

DD: What was your inspiration for your Fall ’09 collection? How did this come about?
MA: It’s always an evolution for me, from one season to the next; it’s kind of continuing where I left off last season, trying to really create a purity in the clothes, purity of the fabric in relations o the body, creating shapes with that, and volume in relation to the body. But there is a real purity in the sense of eliminating seams and using one piece of fabric for coats, and finding ways of draping it over the body, or hiding the seams in one way, eliminating buttons and linings: stripping away everything. I always like to leave it open to different people’s interpretations of it. I mean for me, I am really trying to work without references and more in my mind.

DD: What were your intentions with the more natural color palette?
MA: Well the color palette, the fabrics were a bit influenced by a very classic American kind of feel to it—there is also a real purity to the colors too—but ecru, and tobacco, and the bright red, and olive, and black, so I think there is a kind of a desert feel to it; but also a kind of the American aspect that comes in with the denim, the corduroy, and also being luxurious fabrics. For example, the corduroy is acashmere-and-cotton corduroy, so it’s a little bit softer.

DD: What were your intentions with the fabrics? How have they progressed?
MA: I wanted to use the fabrics in a very pure way, letting them drape on the bodies very naturally or breaking down the seams, or lining or buttons.  I always like texture in fabrics, that is something that is always continuous in all the collections, and also natural fabrics, so it’s always like cottons or silks or wools.

DD: How was the Laurie Anderson spoken-word song  (a personal favorite) chosen to accompany the show?
MA: We were listening to different kinds of music and liked the idea of Laurie Anderson’s voice. I mean we changed the tone of her voice a bit, but the words, “walking and falling” and we just thought that the idea of the words, the sound of her voice, was very strong, simple--just a powerful kind of phrase for people to hear. 

DD: Who do you envision wearing this collection?
MA: I never envision one specific person I like to think that there is a broad range, not just one age or type of person; but certainly someone who appreciates shapes, ideas, or luxury or elegance or sophistication in clothes. But I think there are things for a broad range of people, from a very mature woman to someone younger.  And for a lot of things I try to allow for a freedom, an all-kind of expression in the clothes so a lot of things can be worn in different ways, one of the dresses is just one piece of fabric that can be draped five different ways, wrapped different ways, so they allow for different kinds of people to wear them how they want.

DD: What designers do you look up to?
MA: There are two or three in particular, whom I really appreciate for how they have influenced the direction of fashion: Rei Kawakubo, Martin Margiela, and Yves Saint Laurent. They really changed the way we think about clothing and think about dressing.

DD: Generally, how do you think your collection has evolved so far?
MA: I try to perfect things from the previous season and perfect it more and more, so I think the idea of what it is always about and what I am interested in creating in clothing is always the same, but I think I try to make it more and more focused each season on communicating that. Then it slowly became more based on draping and not as sculptural and softer than the last few seasons. From that it evolved, each season but there is still a geometric aspect.

Dazed Digital was there to photograph Matthew Ames A/W 09 backstage from New York Fashion Week.