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Monday, June 8, 2009

Going Dutch

At the opening of Arnhem Mode Biennale a couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to meet some of the 43 international and national designers whose work was on display, with the show's artistic director Piet Paris as my guide. One of the young designers I met was Mattijs van Bergen, whose current summer collection—under the single name Mattijs—already sells at local concept store Coming Soon, alongside other Dutch designers such as Klavers van Engelen, Orson+Bodil and Lucas Ossendrijver of Lanvin Homme. Here's what he had to say...

Haidee Findlay-Levin: Your work tends to be quite elaborate, with a lot of embellishment. Why did you choose to exhibit garments made from plain cotton calico and decorated with a simple biro pen?
Mattijs: As with many young designers at the moment, I am struggling with my financial situation. Even though I am selling in certain places, for my recent collection, which inspired this installation, I wanted to be creative and challenging, and create something quite elaborate without going over budget. I start a garment in calico and from there I work on the shape and form. The biro becomes the embellishment. There is a lot of work, because it's all hand-drawn. In the end, it looks like embroidery. It's almost like a couture way of working.

Calico has a starched quality that breaks down the shape with wear. Was this the effect you were going for?
Firstly, I like its weird off-tone color; this color looks good on everyone. The fabric wears, changes and evolves when you wear it. You can't wash it or even dry-clean it.

So it has a limited lifespan.
Exactly. You can only wear it for a moment, really for no more than a few events. There is a beauty in its limited lifespan.

You studied in Holland and London, earning your BA in Arnhem and your MA at St Martins. What did you take away from each?
Arnhem is more about technique and how to build a garment. At St Martins, it's more about the image, about the woman. It's more about the idea of fashion, the dream. The combination has worked well for me.

Is it true that you work with your mother on your collections?
Yes. My mother does all the pleated metal pieces. It started at St Martins. The director, Louise Wilson, commented on a brooch I was wearing, something my mother had made. She said, "If you have a mother this talented, why don’t you work together on something.” This way I get to really spend time with her.

Is your mother based here in Holland?
Yes, she lives close to Arnhem. My parents met here. My father is a painter and they both met at the Academy. Initially I didn't want to study here. I didn’t want to be the baker’s son who becomes a baker. But it was unavoidable.

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