Centre For Style’s Matthew Linde on fashion beyond the commercial

Matthew Linde at "Bouvier's Bedroom", Mathew Gallery, August 2014. Photo by Wilcosz & Way
Matthew Linde at “Bouvier’s Bedroom”, Mathew Gallery, August 2014. Photo by Wilcosz & Way

Matthew Linde is the driving force behind Centre for Style, a digital platform for fashion practitioners with a physical space in Melbourne and an international programme of refreshing events and collaborations that kick out at the parameters of fashion conversation. This month sees Linde in Berlin to put together “Bouvier’s Bedroom”, a rifle through the dilapidated walk-in wardrobe of a fictional aged socialite as told through new work from eight designers skating the line between fashion design and art practice. Eckhaus Latta, Martine Rose and Berlin’s own Nhu Doung all make an appearance, with a new iteration of performance “Tell Me What To Do”, by Anna-Sophie Berger staged on the opening night.

Besides the name, Mathew gallery is an appropriate choice for the show, given that it sits somewhere between traditional commercial gallery space and a nexus for fashion, music and visual arts. It was set up by the co-founders of electronic label Dial Records, Peter M. Kersten and David Lieske and has previously shown work by artists Ken Okiishi, Nicolas Ceccaldi and Kim Gordon among others.

Sleek caught up with Linde over a strong coffee the day after the opening to talk about the show and the experimental talent championed by Centre for Style.

Sleek: Can you talk about the term “fashion practitioner” and how it applies to the participants in “Bouvier’s Bedroom”?

Matthew Linde: Centre for Style works with artists or designers that play with the constructs of fashion language or fashion industry without producing collections in the traditional sense. Their work is provocative and performative and tends to use materials that don’t sit together in a traditional way. Fashion can be a site for ideas, it’s not just a capitalist playground. This type of practice appeals to Centre for Style because it’s challenging.

Eckhaus Latta do things like knitting plastic, there’s an incongruous relationship between their clothes and the body that’s really powerful. FFixxed make a lot of multifunctional garments, like their iconic picnic blanket piece with sleeves. Their pieces at Mathew are all made out of airline blankets while H.B. Peace have made garments out of treated bed-sheets and scarves printed with poems by this prolific Melbourne artist, Chris Hill. Rare Candy are a Melbourne label and like Eckhaus Latta they didn’t study fashion so their pieces are quite haphazard. The denim wrap skirts were a collaboration with this Philadelphia artist called Misty Pollen. Jessie Kiely’s work is made out of upholstery fabric so it has this great volume. This is the first time we’ve shown student work and I knew I wanted to incorporate some kind of bed or couch, a domestic piece, given the title. There are three Nhu Duong pieces and a painting by Thomas Jeppe, they’re both based in Berlin. 

Laura Fanning, "Bouvier's Bedroom", Mathew Gallery. Photo by Wilcosz & Way
Laura Fanning, “Bouvier’s Bedroom”, Mathew Gallery. Photo by Wilcosz & Way

Who is Ms Bouvier?

She’s the invisible character behind the show, borne out of an obsession with dilapidated glamour. It was never going to be a clean exhibition. The garments are all one-off pieces. There’s a reified, special quality to them. I like the dichotomy between the expense of these special pieces and the chaos of this figure. It’s an orchestrated mess: objects are touching the ground, they’re slouching, but it’s totally choreographed so there’s reverence there too.

I think the strongest work involves tension; it sits between two poles. In terms of the architecture of Centre for Style, it’s risky. I’m really conscious of this antipodal relationship and of not getting too close to either pole: not too lo-fi but not too luxurious or clean either. 

How did Center for Style happen? 

Centre for Style came out of a total disappointment in the lacklustre nature of retail. You go into luxury consignment stores and there’s this feeling that you’re not meant to be there– that instant nullifying class stratification analysis from the sales assistant – it’s fun to fuck with that. It was also a way of canonizing some of the great work I saw being produced around me and a means of bringing international talent to a Melbourne audience. Centre for Style is serious and genuine but it’s also funny or silly. Like the name: it’s quasi-institutional sounding but it’s playful too. This dichotomy runs through what we do. 

Why do you think this kind of experimental work is flourishing right now?

I think a lot of people are seeing this resurgence of experimental fashion practitioners. The last real moment was the Antwerp Six and before that there was the Japanese phenomenon – Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo, Issey Miyake and that clan. There’s always interesting stuff coming out of London but I’d like to think that Centre for Style is involved in a wider cultural shift. The mechanics [of a career in fashion design] used to seem daunting but people have started to realize a label doesn’t need to be a huge production. You can present a collection of one-offs and allow it to be like a production line of ideas instead of materials. 

Anna Sophie Berger performance, "Tell Me What To Do", Mathew gallery, August 2014. Photo by Wilcosz & Way
Anna Sophie Berger performance, “Tell Me What To Do”, Mathew gallery, August 2014. Photo by Wilcosz & Way

Let’s talk about more about “fashion mechanics”, what is it you’re trying to disrupt with Centre for Style?

Fashion is completely contextual. There’s a myth built, there’s a brand built, but then when you look at the mechanics, it’s just merchandise, what sanctifies a brand like this is sales and sales are achieved through diffusion. Designers pour money into these amazing runway looks and then like 90% of their sales are achieved through shitty wallets or whatever. When we love a brand, what context are we loving it in?

In a collection you have highlight, fashion and basic, or diffused, pieces. Diffused pieces are essentially finance. And I couldn’t give a shit about finance.

See more pictures from the opening below

“Bouvier’s Bedroom” is at Mathew gallery until August 29 2014

Text by Ella Plevin

Photos by Wilcosz & Way

Read more about Melbourne’s burgeoning fashion scene in the upcoming issue of Sleek, 43.

Read more art reviews and interviews in our Showroom section

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