MAEKAN & BYBORRE — Redefining Comfort: Matthijs Loriaux

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Interview & Photos by Eugene Kan
Video by Ralph Sarmo

Interview & Photos by Eugene Kan
Video by Ralph Sarmo

Comfort. It’s something essential to our lives.

The degree of comfort we experience can impact how we view the world around us. Comfort can take shape in a practical sense. Are we dry? Are we able to move freely? Are we confident about how we look?

Comfort can also apply psychologically. Are we comfortable with the challenge ahead and the uncertainty of not knowing what’s next?

In abundance, some would say too much of it creates complacency. Too little of it, and you’re unable to settle into a rhythm, because you’re only focused on reducing the discomfort.

For Men’s Fashion Week 2019 this past January MAEKAN and the BYBORRE team partnered on a series of conversations with new and old friends on this concept of “Redefining Comfort.” Our conversations were candid and casual with a special interest around the inspirations of pioneers and creators who are looking to put their stamp on the world.

In our fifth episode, we speak with designer and Central Saint Martins graduate student Mattijs Loriaux, better known as “Matta.” The conversation’s focus was primarily driven in our responsibility in creating and how the importance of knowledge and foundation in the fashion landscape. His commitment focuses on the shared progress of both sustainability and fabrics with the ultimate goal of changing consumer attitudes. Loriaux is part of the next generation of fashion flagbearers, and his thoughts and critical analysis are necessary to an industry that’s grown immensely in relevance and power.

We’d like to extend a special thanks to WeTransfer, GORE-TEX, The Woolmark Company, and the whole BYBORRE team for making this series happen.

At MAEKAN, the story defines the medium. Some stories function best as written text, others hope to capture the emotion through an intimate audio experience. In cases such as this audio story, the transcripts we provide are done to the best of our ability through AI transcription services and human transcribers. We try our best, but this may contain small errors or non-traditional sentence structure. The imperfection of humans is what makes us perfect.

Eugene: So, for people who aren’t familiar with you maybe you can introduce yourself and what you do?

Matthias: My name is Matthias, I’m from Amsterdam where most people actually know me as Matta. I’m currently in Central St. Martin’s in London doing a master’s in fashion critical studies, on the side I do several jobs involved in the communication or branding of fashion.

Eugene: Nice. For people that maybe aren’t familiar with what that curriculum entails maybe you can explain what it means?

Matthias: It’s basically a very academical approach to fashion as a readable text or readable objects with all its cultural, socioeconomic, gender implications, political implications.

Eugene: It’s more along the lines of fashion as the output and how is it commenting on the world around us, would you say?

Matthias: It’s about that. It’s also about obviously taking from that and how you interpret your world around you as an individual. You kind of translate that back, feeding that back into aesthetics.

Eugene: What originally drew you to that exact discipline?

Matthias: It’s interesting because I’ve always been very much interested in lifestyle, music and of the stylistic choices that accompany several music genres. I’ve always been very much involved in hip hop, grunge, those types of subcultural genres and styles.

Like ten years back, I thought I wanted to be involved in that whole music aspect then actually after a while I started to realise that actually the aesthetics, the clothing kind of was more what I was actually interested in.

Eugene: Within the sort of whole range of cultural pillars and that’s kind of up for determination, it could be food, music, design, art, fashion. Where do you think fashion sits amongst that whole landscape and what is its importance amongst creative culture?

Matthias: It’s kind of what we briefly were talking about just earlier now. Fashion is a way of putting objects onto the body, like ornamenting the body with objects that have symbolical implications. So it’s a very direct way of presenting oneself and also to kind of align yourself with your peers.

Eugene: And do you think that the role of fashion has increased in importance or diminished or is about the same? I guess I’m trying not to load the question too much because I think that your background is as fascinating in the sense that at this given moment in time, most people would say that fashion is going through this state of uncertainty in terms of what’s being outputted, why it’s being outputted. How do you view fashion? How does it reflect on us as a broader culture and society? To be very fair I didn’t really know your background so much as like Borre said this guy is cool. And honestly the minute you said you were doing critical studies in fashion, I thought this is actually really fascinating because I have a lot of interest in the topic itself.

Matthias: Yeah I think it’s a very weird moment for fashion because I think, now more than ever, it is part of popular culture in a very broad sense. There’s probably like a bigger market now than ever. There’s a younger market coming up as well. And you see this predominantly I think in the high the high end fashion trends that are kind of trying to tap into those newer millennial consumer markets. And it’s interesting because you see that actually those brands are now drawing towards t-shirts and hoodies which, if you think of it from a broader perspective, that’s the most modernistic you can go almost. It’s like a ready-made–I think that word has been coined as of lately but it’s true–it’s ready-made, it’s something that gets mass produced and then a logo can be stamped on it and then it can be sold as being fashion but actually it’s just a garment, it’s a clothing basic. And I’m kind of grappling with this thing as well. It’s something that’s been occupying my mind over the past year or two years that where’s that leading us as a society? In my understanding what couture and high end fashion was as in a function in society is that it’s this weird kind of space where we could play around with things like gender implications, how we expect each other to dress in society and then create these wild things that play around with those things. So for instance how Chanel was always deemed as this person that liberated the woman of the corset. She changed the whole way of dress. I mean she wasn’t the sole person to manifest this, but she definitely made a difference in how then our status quo, our clothing changed. So it’s going to be interesting to see where this time is going to lead us.

I think discomfort is actually really important because it's a space where we can grow and we can learn things and we can push ourselves. So obviously in relation to this conversation right now it's that also if we push and kind of challenge ourselves as consumers then that might contribute to meaningful processes as well.

Eugene: Yeah, for you obviously going to school is to establish sort of a foundational element. So I guess I’m under the assumption that it’s sufficiently interesting that you want to have an impact on this industry or culture going forward, right? How important is a certain intellectualization of this industry? And I guess it’s along the lines of this: I always think that in creative culture you don’t always need to go to school to make it, it helps and obviously it opens certain doors. But what is the importance of having some sort of educational foundation to what you’re trying to do and how will that enable us to move forward versus if we just try to like kind of figure it out along the way? Because I’m interested like how the structural way of breaking down problems, which I think in general is what school does, how that can enable us to move forward because as you mentioned you’ve been spending the last year or two consumed with where we are currently, obviously where we’re going to go.

Matthias: Yeah that was a big choice for me going back to doing a postgraduate degree and kind of finding those intellectual pathways to find answers or to better understand perhaps where we are going and where we could go because in that sense doing research and having an academic background kind of teaches one critical thinking really to use existing knowledge from existing research that has been proven in some sort of way to either question that.

It’s like a continuous design process of the collective mind, of the collective intellect of us as a society and where we can push ourself and design ourselves towards in that sense. To continuously like innovate and adapt to where we need to go as a society.

Right now most of the discourse about innovation and innovation against pollution mostly comments on innovation in fabrics and whatnot which is very important obviously, but if we don't change the way that consumers come to perceive brands and come to perceive products and what they are and how they then consume these, so what type of attitude they have towards these products, then all the efforts in innovation that we're making and in production and whatnot won't really matter.

 

Eugene: This is potentially a dangerous question but how do you feel the general sentiment is from an established institution like Central St. Martin’s in regards to the current fashion landscape and how a curriculum like critical thought and analysis factors into it?

Because I would argue that currently I think that we’re definitely at a place and time were beyond fashion I think in general we’ve lacked that layer of analysis and critique and there’s a lot of reasons why we are where we are right now and neither here nor there for this conversation so much as I think that this might be somewhat of an unpopular opinion but the overall democratization of everything was deemed to be awesome, everyone has an opportunity, but then you soon realize that people that maybe haven’t gone through the hoops, and the hoops actually are not playing the game or having access so much as you’re putting yourself in a position because you understand the landscape to have an educated opinion on it versus just hey you know what I’m going to go on a comment section on the website and just rip into something whether I believe it or not I was just saying this in my opinion.

Matthias: Yeah it’s the whole concept of what is truth nowadays and fake news obviously but also the whole culture of being able to take everything and everything, what’s the difference between copying, what’s the difference between taking a reference? It’s good that we’re blurring those lines as to question them and to explore what those things still mean nowadays or what they should mean.

Yeah, I do feel like, because of that, these types of way of working, because it’s kind of accepted now, it does create a lot of product to be put out there in the world and that in that sense there’s no criticism as it seems to kind of distinguish or to kind of justify or legitimize in that sense this is interesting design and this is just a cultural expression.

Eugene: At what point do we have to take an honest look at the way things are developing and shaping up and establish where we stand on certain things? I guess my point is that there are certain designers that feel as though this is where we are as culture and society where everyone is tripling down on memes, so we will soon embrace that into our design rather than being like this is stupid or maybe we have an opinion on it.

So I’m always curious because it could essentially be a race to the bottom if we continually feed into where we’re currently going versus taking a stand and pushing back. But I guess being sufficiently removed from fashion I’m always just kind of interested to see because I think fashion as an industry and the people involved have to have a very unique pulse on all things which allow them to create things of relevance for today. So that means that they have to understand music, design, art, all these things and it culminates in a product that generally speaking is a little bit more accessible.

And I think that that’s the part of it that’s that’s fascinating versus like let’s say tech. I think tech has proven itself over the last… Let’s just arbitrarily choose a number, let’s say the last 18 months and shown that they lack a certain sense of empathy and understanding of culture which has put them in a certain place and I think that for you to be relevant as a fashion brand you almost have to understand where culture is at any given moment in time.

Matthias: Yeah definitely you know you have to
tap into what you think the consumer will like in say a year. In that sense it’s difficult because a lot of the people that create obviously the process of creation is also something that often cannot really be explained I think. Like why did you make something? I like it. You know it’s an aesthetic and especially that why something would be of the moment, I feel like for a lot of people it’s just a vision I guess in that sense, it’s just a feeling.

Eugene: Do you think that’s a sufficiently good answer? I guess it’s like do they need to be able to articulate it or should it really just be sort of this intangible sort of feeling or vibe like I get it or don’t get it?

Matthias: I’m not sure if we should always have to explain ourselves for choices like these. But the thing that I kind of believe in myself for where fashion should go is that we create brands and products that, going back to that symbolical value and what things imply or brands or products imply to the consumers, that they have such relevance in that sense, they symbolize something so that they become something that the way we consume these products is compared to how we consume art because then it transcends something being a part of a trend or a fleeting moment. I think if we get to a state of consumption where we consume fashion from such a point of view in theory we would have to consume less.

I think it's a very weird moment for fashion because I think, now more than ever, it is part of popular culture in a very broad sense. There's probably like a bigger market now than ever. There's a younger market coming up as well. And you see this predominantly I think in the high the high end fashion trends that are kind of trying to tap into those newer millennial consumer markets. And it's interesting because you see that actually those brands are now drawing towards t-shirts and hoodies which, if you think of it from a broader perspective, that's the most modernistic you can go almost.

Eugene: To that point, are humans intrinsically tied to the need for symbolism which is why fashion in reality is always going to have a place?

Matthias: Yeah but then when we think back about what we are talking about earlier and if we’re just creating T-shirt with just any prints on there or a brand logo and it’s very on the moment of now, I always question myself how long are you going to have that product and consume it or just store it in your personal archive?

Eugene: I kind of just inferred that obviously you want to have some sort of impact on fashion and the broader landscape by virtue of going through the process of getting your master’s etc. What to you is actually a goal in the grand scheme of things? To me it feels as though the subject matter infers a certain type of interest in… because by virtue of it being critique in fashion there there’s probably some sort of underlying thing you want to achieve with that, right?

Matthias: As I said earlier, just kind of trying to contribute to a form of fashion, something that I really love and enjoy but also know that there’s mechanisms and ways that this industry works or that this cultural concept works that it’s just not up to par with where we should go as a whole world, as it being one of the biggest polluters.

Eugene: What do you think that contribution looks like? I mean what’s the outcome you’re seeking to to achieve?

Matthias: So I was saying earlier how you can establish a form of consumption or an attitude of consumers towards particular products that come to symbolize something more than being just a T-shirt. It has a significant value to that one individual or a couple of individuals because of what it taps into or what it comes to represent to them. And if we can establish that with more brands and more products then I think we’re already making a big step. Right now most of the discourse about innovation and innovation against pollution mostly comments on innovation in fabrics and whatnot which is very important obviously but if we don’t change the way that consumers come to perceive brands and come to perceive products and what they are and how they then consume these, so what type of attitude they have towards these products, then all the efforts in innovation that we’re making and in production and whatnot won’t really matter.

Eugene: Over the course of the series it’s focused on the idea of redefining comfort and I think that in the most sort of practical sense comfort is physical comfort but how do you look at comfort or discomfort in ideas? Because that’s generally the world in which you’re playing right now and it’s like comfort in an item, comfort in an idea, discomfort in not knowing, how do you basically approach discomfort?

Matthias: I think discomfort is actually really important because it’s a space where we can grow and we can learn things and we can push ourselves. So obviously in relation to this conversation right now it’s that also if we push and kind of challenge ourselves as consumers then that might contribute to meaningful processes as well.

Eugene: Is it a continual process for you to establish discomfort, comfort etcetc. Is it an ongoing cycle?

Matthias: Yes, very much. Especially the past couple of years I’ve really come to a state of mind or a state of being I guess of trying to really challenge myself and push myself to to make the most out of life really.

It’s funny too, one of my best friends and another good friend of mine I knew passed away and it really puts life in perspective and that’s like it’s this wildly abstract thing actually that’s such a sheer chance that we’re actually here right now living getting to experience the world and life, every day should be celebrated and you should make the most out of it for yourself. So I guess when that happened I started to really evaluate what would make me happy in life and where I want to go and want to push myself.

Eugene: Do you identify more as being a student or graphic designer or a branding person? What do you think is what you self identify as?

Matthias: I am a graphic designer, strategist, marketeer in that sense but also a student simultaneously. But I guess kind of what it comes down to is continuously learning and pushing myself in that sense to understand more, to get more skills in order for me to find my way into my trajectory that we were just talking about. So, it’s a continuous learning process and there’s always a hunger for getting new knowledge and new experiences. It’s a continuous thing, I think learning never stops. I hope it never stops.

There's always a hunger for getting new knowledge and new experiences. It's a continuous thing, I think learning never stops. I hope it never stops.
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