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Matty and Plum — summer 2018
Matty and Evie wear all clothes Matty BovanPhotography Dean Davies, styling Matty Bovan

Matty Bovan: Plum’s the word

‘It’s not about status. It’s not fashion as a status symbol, it’s fashion as expression’ – the designer in conversation with his mum

PhotographyDean DaviesStylingMatty BovanTextMatty Bovan

Taken from the summer 2018 issue of Dazed. You can buy a copy of our latest issue here.

In the new issue, designer Matty Bovan invited us into his family home in York, where he discussed beauty pageants and always doing the most with the least with his mum. He introduces the shoot concept here:

This shoot is very personal and a celebration of where I’m from and where I’m going. My mum, Plum, and I are so close – she works on the jewellery in my shows with me. She is also a big influence on my life and work so I’m really happy we could share this. Shooting on the concrete on the road I grew up on with my friends, in the Knavesmire green, and in the house my mum lives in felt important, as they’re the places I have lived most of my life – it’s the perfect landscape for my Matty Bovan hyper-clashed world to explode into! – Matty Bovan

Matty Bovan: So do you want to start, Mum? Or do you want me to start?

Plum Bovan: Would you ever have a short-back-and-sides and wear a pinstripe suit?

Matty Bovan: Pinstripe is very specific! Maybe. I’ve been thinking about cutting my hair off a lot recently... It would be quite funny, wouldn’t it?

Plum Bovan: Could look good!

Matty Bovan: What is your earliest memory of make-up?

Plum Bovan: Top of the Pops, Dusty Springfield, with her very black eye make-up. I loved her hair, all backcombed up in a beehive. She went on to become a bit of an idol of mine, if I’m honest. And still is.

Matty Bovan: And what about clothes?

Plum Bovan: I wasn’t overly keen on her clothes. Not the long dresses. I liked Mary Quant. I very much liked miniskirts and long plastic boots. I had those roll-up-your-leg white patent plastic boots with an elasticated top and a square heel – they ponged after a while because I couldn’t get any air into them.

Matty Bovan: Didn’t they smell like rubber? Or plastic?

Plum Bovan: ... and feet, even.

Matty Bovan: Was it expensive, Mary Quant’s stuff?

Plum Bovan: They were a copy. Because I wasn’t living in London as a kid, it was probably C&A, or a high-street shop.

Matty Bovan: And you were in a pageant, weren’t you?

Plum Bovan: I was, yeah! (The theme) was ‘What’s your vision of the future?’ It was at the Duke’s Head in King’s Lynn. The judge was George Lazenby, who played Bond one and only one time. And I won! I won about £500, which was a hell of a lot. But it had to be spent at a hairdressers. And so I got it all in wigs.

Matty Bovan: Great!

Plum Bovan: Black wigs, blonde wigs, brown wigs. I wore them all.

Matty Bovan: Wow. And did you make a lot of your own clothes as well?

Plum Bovan: No, not really. You know, odd things. I’m not very good at making clothes. Should I ask you one?

Matty Bovan: Yeah.

Plum Bovan: Which clothing era influenced you the most? Was it the 70s, the 80s?

Matty Bovan: For me it was definitely the 80s. I wasn’t even born (yet), but I remember getting a book and seeing the label BodyMap – that was instantly one of my favourites, and there’s not even that much of their stuff that’s been documented. They did some really amazing shows. And early Westwood, McLaren... The more underground stuff, not the big-shouldered 80s.

Plum Bovan: So if you didn’t make your own clothes, which I know you nearly always have, which designer would you most like to wear?

Matty Bovan: If I had to wear anything it would literally be, as I said, Westwood! But as long as it’s interesting, that’s all I really care about. It’s not about status. It’s not fashion as a status symbol, it’s fashion as expression.

Plum Bovan: Yeah.

Matty Bovan: What about you? Which designer would you wear? ’Cos I don’t think you really wear designer clothes.

Plum Bovan: No. Gosh, that’s hard to say. Because I don’t really have the money to, but I love to look at different fashions.

Matty Bovan: When you lived in Malaysia back in the 80s, you had two Comme des Garçons tops...

Plum Bovan: I did!

Matty Bovan: Which you cut up.

Plum Bovan: Yeah, I did in the end. I let all the elastic out.

Matty Bovan: More recently, you found a community of older women online who are really into expressing themselves. Would you say that’s given you the confidence to experiment more?

Plum Bovan: Oh my God! Huge! And the biggest inf luence of all was Sue Kreitzman, who is an incredible, colourful artist; she wears the art that she produces. I think it was reading articles about Sue that gave me the confidence to think, ‘It doesn’t matter how old you are.’ It doesn’t, you just do what you want to do and feel confident and happy in doing it. I follow her on Instagram – we have a rapport.

Matty Bovan: Yeah. For all the flack the internet gets, it’s interesting. For me, with make-up, I get inspired by YouTube tutorial techniques, same for you with (these women on Instagram). Speaking of which, you were in town the other day, weren’t you, and someone called you by your Instagram name – ‘Begonia Peterson’. Sometimes people shout ‘baby’ at me (Bovan’s Instagram handle is @babbym), or ‘babbie’, but mostly ‘baby’ – I think people misread it. That’s quite cute... Anyway, you were always creative when we were growing up, we were always collaging and you would be tie-dying stuff. Do you feel you’ve kind of refound that now?

Plum Bovan: I think it was difficult, because I was working full-time. You get in, you’ve got the housework and everything else to do, so creativity had to take a backseat. I was creative when you were young, because I was at home with you and I child-minded, so I had the time to do it.

Matty Bovan: But we also didn’t have any, you know...

Plum Bovan: ... any money. (laughs)

Matty Bovan: Yeah, no money, which I’ve always said is a big help. It’s the way I’ve always worked; I mean, you have to be resourceful. In my first collection with Fashion East, I did all these crystal-y looks like Swarovski mesh, and it was actually all cake trim for wedding cakes sewn together. It looks amazing, it’s super-lightweight and it was cheap. I’m always looking for things that I can transform. It’s the same with cheap make-up, I’ve always liked to put cheap make-up (on) but now I’m kind of using other brands.

Plum Bovan: I think this year is the first time I’ve ever been able to actually spend some money on the house, because my mum left me a little bit of money, not much, but before then I used to have a stencil and a gold tin of paint.

Matty Bovan: I remember well.

Plum Bovan: Spraying hearts and sticking cheap crystals on the walls, painting the furniture gold...

Matty Bovan: It actually looked really nice, and that was there for a while!

Plum Bovan: I think you lose that, when you can afford not to do it.

Matty Bovan: It gets too nice. It’s like with anything. It’s the same with my work, I like to keep that rawness to it. Otherwise it loses that bit of energy.

Plum Bovan: It’s also nice to be able to show that you can work in the north of England, without it having a detrimental effect to your business or your name.

Matty Bovan: In London you (do) get more kids who want to intern and stuff. But, you know, it still works. And I get to kind of escape, and muck up and just make stuff. I haven’t got as much distraction around me. I’ve got loads of young kids saying to me, ‘It’s such an inspiration to see you can be active outside London.’ What would you say to your younger self if you could go back in time? Say, 20 years ago?

Plum Bovan: Oh, gosh. I would say I should study harder at school, because I was a wayward child, and I wish I’d been more serious. I wish I’d had a creative career instead of doing office work, which, when I look back on all the years that I spent sitting at a screen or a typewriter or something, I regret terribly.

Matty Bovan: But I mean more like life advice. I guess that is life advice, but you know.

Plum Bovan: Own lots of cats. (both laugh) I think maybe a healthy lifestyle as well, which is something that I didn’t and don’t embrace, and I should have done.

Matty Bovan: Yeah, but it’s easier to say that...

Plum Bovan: But it’s not as much fun! 

Make-up Matty Bovan, Charlie Murray, talent Matty Bovan, Plum Bovan, Ethan O’Connor, Evie O’Connor, Gigi Hari, Lee Lockwood, Rory Mullen, Mika Gomersall Marks, Laura Gracey, photography assistant Tom Warburton