Ten Designers You Should Meet: Matthew Miller
When you Google Matthew Miller, the first one that appears is an American citizen who was detained in North Korea, then freed. Freed against his will. He wanted to stay. He had liked being there that much.
This, of course, has nothing to do with the Matthew Miller in question here – the London-based menswear designer who works out of a studio far away from the Kim Jong-un-run state. But North Korea makes me think of politics. And for Miller the menswear designer, politics is crucial. And I don’t mean all that boring, parliamentary Question Time stuff, but messages of protest, revolution. He’s a man with opinions.
“All clothing has a message,” he says, “whether that be the systematic abuse of people that fast fashion promotes, or the bastardisation and devaluation of ideas. All clothing, whether you like it or not, is political.”
It’s a fascination that has long been found woven into the clothes he makes. In an early collection, the words YOU, ANTI-, WAR and SOCIETY were found written on Velcro tabs that were stuck onto shirts and tops, across the shoulders or around the waist. Other times, it has been played out more subtly, such as in January 2014, when Miller named his collection Resistant, a reference as much to do with the flame- resistant nature of the fabrics he used as with the idea that fashion’s job is to push against something.
Words are important to Miller. “I write things down expressively in my notebook,” he says. “From these words I start to look at Wikipedia, look at the definitions and links, and then take this information to the library and really start to immerse myself in books and journals.”
It’s why, in every piece of clothing, the words “Untitled, Mixed Media, Dimensions Variable” are written on the label, part of his own, self-written design philosophy, the idea that clothing should be a blank canvas for the wearer. “I think that, as a designer, you have to have a design identity – there is no singular message that can transcend language and cultural barriers.” Miller is clearly a designer with brains.
His studio, a bustling, five-people-strong hub, found in east London’s Mile End, is where these ideas come to fruition. “It’s a pretty chaotic place,” he says. “Research on the walls and a lot of experiments taking place, graphics projects, filming ideas and pattern cutting. It’s a very creative space.”
And ultimately, while Miller pulls from so many different places, the studio is the most important because it’s the delivery room where his clothes are born. Which, beyond the message, politics and words, are the most important thing. The clothes themselves. The belief that clothes should be made with purpose, become part of you, grow with you. Be built to last. “The more the clothes age,” Miller tells me, “the more cultural capital they gain – a beautiful form of chaos.” A beautiful form of chaos? We’ll go with that.
Taken from Issue 43 of 10 Men, THE DARK LANDS, on newsstands now…
Photograph by Kim Jakobsen To