Introducing Menswear Designer Matteo Molinari

One of the aspects of London Fashion Week that most visitors find useful (and often generates words of praise) is the fact that, in addition to the numerous runway shows, buyers and press have the opportunity to see live exhibits of the work produced by dozens of designers. On most occasions, the people responsible for the design and production of the work are present, and one can find out more about their creative and production processes by asking all sorts of questions. It was on one such occasions that The Style Examiner encountered the work of the talented menswear and accessories designer Matteo Molinari and became eager to find out more.

Molinari’s highly desirable and beautifully tailored menswear collection fuses modern tailoring with traditional craftsmanship in very textured black and white fabrics such as embossed neoprene, boiled wool, cashmere, stretch wool, merino wool, and handmade crochet lace. Drawing inspiration from his fascination for the small dots, lines and circles printed onto white paper that his mother and sisters used to make lace, he created patterns which were converted into pieces of crochet and put into panels for the garments produced in a small factory near Venice, in Italy. This complex technique of combining crochet with sophisticated menswear questions traditional socially constructed images of masculinity and femininity in a very interesting way. The combination of detailed pattern cutting, sharp fit, and the mixture of Italian manufacturing, Japanese fabrics, hand stitching and crochet (produced by close family members) makes his collection luxurious and desirable but also hugely personal and emotional.

We interviewed Matteo Molinari in order to find out more about the man and the plans for his label.

Could you tell us about your background and initial steps in the fashion world?
I think that I have a very eclectic background. Before getting into fashion, I studied Media and Communication and then finished a MA in Philosophy of Languages and Semiotics while living in Italy. After finishing my postgraduate studies, I started working for Borbonese, a design consultancy office, first as an accountant, then as a design consultant on a number of projects (which included a diffusion line of handbags for a big Italian brand). When my contract ended, I decided to come to London to have a proper educational pathway in design. I enrolled in a Menswear course at the London College of Fashion (LCF) and graduated in 2011. Right now, I’m doing a practice-based PhD at LCF and, at the same time, I’m designing my Spring/Summer 2013 collection to be presented in June during London Fashion Week.

How much of your success do you credit to where you studied?
LCF gives you a lot of technical competence in the process of making. The MA programme ran by Darren Cabon is not only focused on the design process but also on the craftsmanship and pattern cutting of the garments at a high standard. That’s one of the strengths of the college and one of the many reasons why it is recognised worldwide as one of the leading design schools.

How did the idea to have your own label come about?
To be honest, I never thought that I would be able to make it to where I am now, and sometimes I still find myself struggling. However, all that disappears when I cut a pattern, fit it on the model, and create a look. To have the complete control of the creative and manufacturing processes is exciting to me and very stimulating. Sketching is just 10% of the work, whereas the studio practice is central in my design methodology.

Who and what inspires you?
Elsa Schiapparelli and Raf Simons are strong inspirational personalities. I also get inspired by actions and things in my daily life, like visiting museums and different countries, or while talking to my close friends or meeting and interacting with new people. However, for my current collection, I would say that the most marked influences came from traditional Italian craftsmanship, like crochet and religious embroideries, united to a silhouette that plays on the contrast between oversize and more fit garments.

How would you define the Matteo Molinari customer?
Someone who is interested in a custom-made garment with a lot of hand working hours behind it.

What do you think of the fashion currently produced by London-based designers?
It’s very modern and cutting edge, and there is currently a lot of sport couture going on. Digital print has been a major player over the last couple of seasons, and tailoring seems to be making a comeback in a more modern way.

Where do you sell and what are your future expansion plans?
At the moment I’m working on made-to-order pieces, but if there are stockists interested I’ll be more than happy to start discussions. I would like to start by having a net of stockists for my glasses and sunglasses range (that are produced in Italy following traditional processes), and then my clothes.