Photography: Matty Bovan Words: Zoe Whitfield
“It’s more conservative and slightly old-fashioned,” says Matty Bovan about Paris, his recently adopted home, in comparison to his old one of London (he’s actually from York). “But it has a good energy and I’m lucky to have friends here.”
In February, Bovan’s MA collection – a multicoloured affair of glittering knit techniques and abstract silhouettes – was picked as the joint winner, alongside Beth Postle, of the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award, a financial prize awarded to the best in show on Central Saint Martins’ Fashion MA course; Craig Green shared the same accolade with Luke Brooks in 2012.
“I can’t imagine if I hadn’t gone there to be honest,” he acknowledges of his time at CSM. Bovan completed both his Masters and BA at the esteemed college: classmates on the latter included Sarah Mower’s sartorially excited first assistant Hannah Lambert and ex-Fashion East designer Ed Marler.
“When I was growing up,” Matty continues, “all the creative, exciting fashion was emerging from Saint Martins, and I knew it was the only place I wanted to study. It’s such a personal creative experience, which is great.”
Taught to knit by his grandma at 11, at 16 he took possession of a knitting machine and, as he puts it, that was it: a further three years and he’d finally got to grips with the “very old and semi-broken” piece of equipment. “There’s a nice freedom in being able to create your own textiles” he says, which presumably has set the course for his work today.
“My mum is very, very creative and was always dying clothes and painting them,” he confirms of his initial understanding of aesthetics, “so that definitely affected me. Both my mum and grandma are very glamorous; when I was a teenager I really loved looking at clothes by designers such as Vivienne Westwood and Zandra Rhodes, then later designers such as Comme des Garçons.” The influences, however loose, are visible, while comparisons with Sibling likewise wouldn’t be completely off.
“My work is a reflection of me really,” he says (despite his MA model line-up being exclusively XY, he designs with himself in mind), “what I’m going through at that time – just really following my gut instinct; I am trying to free myself up the older I get, just to be more open. Things that inspire you can be anything, and often with me become abstracted: nothing is a clear, obvious reference – it’s all a big melting pot in my mind and I just wanna run with it.”
At the mention of contemporary designers Bovan claims instead a greater interest in art and areas outside of the industry, but recent projects have seen his skillset utilised by one Marc Jacobs.
“OMG so great!” he asserts of his contribution (a sporadic print of disparate motifs produced for the label’s SS16 collection in collaboration with another CSM alumna, Amie Victoria Robertson). “I didn’t know if it would be used but I love it so much, can’t wait to see it in the flesh. That whole collection was amazing, I would totally wear it all, and the set up was so glamorous; I loved it,” he continues. “Quite surreal but great.”
The appreciation is presumably mutual, with Jacobs sending love, thanks and heart/tongue/thumbs up shaped emojis over Instagram. When Matty suggests it was Katie Grand that put the initial pieces in place, having featured him in her biannual super glossy LOVE, it doesn’t exactly garner shock; last season she hooked Kendall Jenner up with Marc’s army.
“She just asked if I would be interested in doing research for Marc, which turned into me going to Paris and working with Amie and Marc and his team,” Bovan says. “Such a fun experience and really lovely people; super enjoyable.”
When we talk he’s in the middle of another professional appointment – the reason behind his French residency and the outcome of a further LVMH prize win this summer – working under Jacobs’ successor at Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquière: “Him and his team really have a very current, contemporary vision.”
Backstage images of Ghesquière’s SS16 collection are separated from the MJ work on Bovan’s Instagram feed by pictures from MM6 Maison Margiela’s London presentation, for which he walked.
“Modelling is always fun for me as I can do what I want and only do jobs I feel are right,” he says of gigs with Meadham Kirchhoff and Willy Vanderperre. “It’s different to being a traditional model where you don’t always want to do the job. I guess, in terms of my own label, it makes me understand how tiring the process can sometimes be.”
Happy to be living the dream in Paris, “and London in parts”, Matty Bovan’s immediate hopes, dreams and wishes stretch simply to keeping the momentum going and the creativity, ahem, flowing, which is no bad thing coming from a man whose résumé has clocked three fashion weeks this season alone.
“I’m very excited for the future.” Us too.