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A series of red and blue modular jackets by Alex Matheson on a grey background

Alex Matheson – Bringing digital and physical worlds together through 'layered' fashion


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I’ve been interested in clothes for a long time and only just recently started making them. I’ve lived in Jersey in the Channel Islands for the past 11 years and it’s got a small-town mentality, especially with style. I’d dress in a way that people would make fun of, but I thought I looked quite cool.

I was awful at art during my GCSEs, but I liked it, and it was only until A-Levels that I began achieving A*s. During my foundation year, I found this Russian artist called Anna Razumovskaya, who painted women in dresses. The way she used colour and brushstrokes was beautiful. So, during this foundation year, I made an iridescent dress inspired by pollution and oil spills – chucking on paint, rubbing it in, sewing on patterns – I’d never done anything like this before.

My first attempt at a dress made it into an exhibition. I started to think, "I could wear that," or, "People could relate to my work". When AUB accepted my offer for BA (Hons) Fashion or Fine Art, it was a 50/50 decision, and I chose Fashion.

For fine art, I knew exactly what I was good at, like portrait, pencil drawings, realism fashion. I thought I’d want to make those dresses I’ve seen in paintings. Now, I’ve started going more into sportswear, a little further away from runway and closer to high street. I looked at Yohji Yamamoto’s collaboration with Adidas. It’s high-end, with silhouettes and shapes and colours, but they’re identifiable. I feel like people would think, "That’s a cool jumper, but it’s super well-made". That’s what I like – really, really well-made, simple stuff.

I’ve matured my style into a succinct place where I want it to be. I wouldn’t want to box myself in, but some of the stuff I’m doing now is modular. When it sits on the body in its base form, it looks pretty minimalistic, but it’s really super complicated and has function. Something simple and classic and sporty, but a little bit futuristic.

I’ve made up this world where we live in this mixed reality. We have to deal with physical things, but also AR (augmented reality) affecting the world. If you were walking down the street, the chip in your brain activates, all the lights flicker on, and AR fills the place. It’s like you can touch it, a visual haptic mixed reality. I’ve created this idea of ‘data storms’, which hit you and strip away your data. Our clothes act as firewalls that protect us from these hacks, or these people. All my clothes have this element of requiring digital protection, but they also require physical protection, so I layer and combine them.

I have my concept. I’ll get some visual imagery, then start collaging and putting different things on top of each other, then I start seeing shapes and colours come through. I’d draw these on Photoshop, and then we have this software called Clo 3D, which lets us draw and cut out 2D patterns – I can see how that works in real-time. Then I’ll go back to the physical and make some quick drapes. Then let’s think about functionality. Imagine wind blowing open my jacket. What shape does it create? I’ll try and apply that to my clothes (we use a software called Lectra), which I’ve made digitally and physically. I’ll create this in a digital environment in other software. I could create a garden or a building, and you can go into those with virtual reality headsets and walk around. That’s the digital side of the experience, but the clothes translate well into the physical world.

Third year is crazy busy, but I’ve never loved this course more. I’m pretty much working on this collection, so while I do stuff on the side – for example, my dissertation – I work on competitions where I'm making projects for brands, so I can hopefully win. I’m super excited to see where it goes – we have an exhibition at the end of the year where AUB partners up with Graduate Fashion Week and Foundation. They can only send so many people to London, but as I’m digital, I can still be there even if I'm not in the physical runway, with VR or through screens. That’s the potential I can get on that runway, so, for me, it's all about aiming for the top and taking every opportunity.

After graduation, I wouldn't mind working for a brand on their design team. Like a product designer, but digital. It’d be awesome to be a designer and see my stuff go down the runway and think, "Yeah, me and my team, we made that". I have so many doors open to me, so I’m going to do as much as I can. Some of the most important stuff that's happened in my career as a student has come from the most insignificant-seeming things. So, my motto is: "If I can be working right now, I will be working".

If you can do better, work for it, and if you have an opportunity, take it.

Something to think about

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