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Matthew Langille's Swatch Characters

As part of Swatch's CREART series, NYC-based graphic artist has put his fun and slightly warped characters onto the iconic Swatch watch.

Last week I went to Venice to witness Swatch’s unveiling of their new CREART Collection. In the past Swatch has collaborated with the likes of Keith Haring, Kiki Picasso and Vivienne Westwood. But this July welcomes the launch of 2009’s offerings from international artists including; Billy The Artist; Matthew Langille; Ted Scapa and GREMS. The event included a live performance in Venice’s beautiful Piazza San Marco where Billy the Artist energetically created a giant mural version of his monochromatic design for Swatch. Founder of Swatch Mr Nicolas G. Hayek revealed the collections earlier in the day with his son Swatch CEO, Nick Hayek- both of whom impressively sported 4 watches at a time – 2 on each wrist- a fantastic signature look for the Swatch family that included all employees! I caught up with graphic artist Matthew Langille, who has designed in the past for Marc by Marc Jacobs, to talk about his playful characters for Swatch.

Matthew Langille: I love your magazine by the way!

Dazed Digital: What’s the best thing about Swatch for you?
Matthew Langille: I think if Swatch was a person we’d be very similar- we’d get on really well. So for me working with Swatch was an honour, but also just the perfect match. I’ve done a lot of work in my life and everything is different and great but Swatch has been special- it’s the perfect fit.

DD: Did you have a Swatch when you were growing up?
Matthew Langille: My whole family has Swatches- it was my first watch. My dad had one, my mother and my brothers. I’d go through my father’s drawer and I’d take his Swatches and wear them.

DD: Are you wearing 3 watches just for today - were you inspired by Mr Hayek?
Matthew Langille: It’s exciting - I just got them really so I’m wearing all 3 of my designs today.

DD: Which is your favourite design from your range for Swatch?
Matthew Langille: I like them all. ‘Floating Away’ is my favourite (the cloud design). I love using Crayola/ primary colours. I’ve done a lot of work with clouds and I tend to attach things to clouds. In the past I’ve attached a house to a cloud and called it ‘Mobile Home’, I attached a heart to a cloud and called it ‘Long distance relationship’ so for this I attached numbers to clouds to illustrate how time just floats by!

For the ‘Germaholic’ (the green monster character) he was exclusively created for Swatch. The Germaholic is funny because, I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, he’s a germ who’s a hypochondriac and he’s surrounded by all these other germs and he cant get away from them so he’s screaming at the top of his lungs! So he’s a tormented germ so to speak- it’s like his prison or hell.

And the final design is the ‘Snugglebunch’ . There are piles and piles of these stuffed animals, soft and cuddly and they’re all crowded together like when you’re on the subway or the tube or whatever and you’re stuck in there it’s so packed! I like the idea that all the characters look like their trying to get onto the watch- their all looking for attention. They’re all trying to get their time on the spotlight.

DD: Where do your characters come from?
Matthew Langille: It’s very organic. Once I embraced the fact it wasn’t perfect like all these other illustrators, I started drawing characters, monsters, animals, and people. I draw a boys and a girl character a lot.

DD: Do you always create a narrative around the characters?
Matthew Langille: These Swatch characters were a bit more developed than a lot of my stuff but once they’re created, the story tends to develop. I don’t start with a ‘Germaholic’- it was only once I made him green, I was like- ‘he looks like a germ!’ So it’s all organic. I work with a big stack of computer paper and sometimes I just start with a line and I get a feeling for the character.

DD: You described your work as childish but would you say you make work for children?
Matthew Langille: No, not really. Someone asked me whether I think describing the designs as childish is insulting but it’s not- I think it’s a great way to describe work. Naive, childish work doesn’t necessarily have to appeal to just children, I think it does but I also feel like for me. When I’m 90 I’ll be wearing this stuff! You know, my house is fun- if I had it my way I’d have scratch and sniff wallpaper and carpet that looks like grass! I think there are a lot of people like that. I think it appeals to a wide range of people for instance the stuff I’ve done for Marc by Marc Jacobs- I’ve seen young girls wearing it to grandmothers wearing it. It’s just how you roll with it- your style! The message is to take life easier and to laugh and have fun. There’s all this heavy, depressing art out there- I just didn’t want to do that, I didn’t want to go down that road. I want to make people smile and not to take life too seriously. I’m not a kid or an old man but I like this kind of stuff for myself.

Swatch CREART series now available in-stores and online.

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