MA Central Saint Martins’ student Matty, class 2022, released his new collection Noir Désir. It is an aesthetic of shadows that looks at the usage of light in contrast with the black leather, and the translucent lace. The oniric atmosphere gives space also to social matters. The collection is a protest against heteronormativity through an aesthetic of sexual liberation. The garments blur the distinction between what is feminine and masculine enlightening and shadowing some parts of the body, creating a mysterious and intriguing mixture of dream and reality. “My work is a continuous exploration of identity and gender norms living in a constant intersection between a feminine attraction and a masculine repulsion of elements that translate into garments. What inspires my research is and reveals at the same time, hiding in the nocturnal realm of Paris. The eyes covering and the unveiling provocative sexiness intertwined with a romantic attitude, in a disorienting mental vortex where identity’s reaffirmation, gender questioning, and the struggle with the patriarchal setting we’re living in fight and melt together in an endless continuum.” The romantic characters mask and reveal at the same time, hiding in the nocturnal realm of Paris. The eyes covering and the unveiling of backs, chests, and lower belly contrast with the darkness of the materials, such as leather. Noir Désir looks back at the 70s punk and rock scene, taking inspiration from characters like Lou Reed and David Bowie and reimagining them with a new age/ modern dandy romantic look. The collection is the translation of Matty’s search for an identity, a mirror in which he sees himself and, as well, a tool to be looked at without judgement. The details of the belts and the metal spurts on the top of formal shoes add to the looks a characteristic individuality and identity to the models, who resemble an extension of Matty himself. The sharp aesthetics of the collection are reflected in the colours used: the cleanest black and white, the bold opposition of light and shadow. It is their contradiction that makes the models hybrids. And they become stronger outside of the norms of hegemonic masculinity, vulnerable, at the same time, and proud to be. The photoshoot taken place in Paris, creates a narrative, another world, a sort of cinematic episode, or maybe a music video, that we look at and immerse in. Yves Tumor is a contemporary artist that started collaborating with Matty, wearing the garments during the last tour in 2022. The singer “plays with the boundaries of contemporary art and culture in a boundlessly visceral and authentic sonic signature. With an arc that graces rock, psychedelia, and electronica in a constant reinvention of modern pop music, comparisons only serve as limitations intended to define that which cannot be. Yves Tumor melds restraint and chaos in a soulful clarity; diluting reality by giving meaning to the abstract and allowing for dissonance to be seen and heard as harmony”. It seems that in the episode of Noir Desir, alongside Lou Reed, the characters may be listening to Yves.
What is Noir Desir? What does it mean for you and why did you choose to call the collection with this name?
The title Noir Désir comes from a song by Vive la Fête, which explains the concepts of darkness and desirability. At the same time it links the collection to the musical scenario and to Paris as an esthetic, a vibe.
Why do you think you decided to choose fashion as your direct medium to explore, understand and search for your identity?
My collection talks a lot about the body and its connections with the garments. I think this attachment with the representation of the body plays an important role. Also, I think fashion is the medium which speaks more directly to the body. And it transforms it, in my collection, through games of showing and not, sexualising some parts of the body. Maybe as well its characteristic of being fitted to the body highlights a connection, and shows the silhouette of the body underneath and enhances it. And also on the symbolic and representational level it represents something. For me it is very important how and what it means to be represented. I take inspiration from Hedi Slimane archives and the analysis of his design approach, researching and studying the constructions of vintage garments that helps him to inspire his new creations.
His creative process interests me because I reimagine the archive. Being made of pictures – he was a photographer before as well – the garments are fitting the body in a meticulous way, and their representation is very important.
Your collection has a very strong political side and you are clearly personally involved in the research of your own identity. Heteronormative rules have deeply influenced our conception of seeing ourselves within the binaries. What is the relationship between you, the collection and the sociopolitical matter?
I experience my sexuality in conjunction with my projects, so they played an important role in the exchange of values between me and the garments. Also, I want to express the feminine desire and the masculine repulsion in the expression of sexuality through clothes. And menswear has lacked gender fluid representations of identities within fashion. During my BA in Venice, there was not a distinction of courses between menswear and womenswear, so my last collection took elements from both and, even though my identity was still growing, it had a gender fluid basis. I was already questioning. It is either for me womenswear and menswear. The need to identify a gender for me almost goes in second place. But, historically, the body of the men is almost unexplored for me. In the sense that the patriarchal society has extensively sexualised the women’s body and the sexualisation of men was only led by a hegemonic masculinity ideology. My purpose is to offer an alternative wardrobe to gender fluid people that don’t want to fit in a specific labelled category, being forced to adapt themself to wear clothes designed for a biological woman’s body in order to express themselves.
Starting from the title to the references of the 70s and 80s rock and roll, it seems that the element of music represents an intrinsic characteristic of your collection, as if the models were actual characters in a music video or in a film noir. To me there’s more than fashion, it seems a way of living, maybe fictional. Was this intentional, especially in the shooting in Paris?
My collection wants to connect to a story, a story of icons. During the 60s and 70s the politics of the body came into action against hyper representations of masculinities and the militarisation of the body. I want to connect to those slender figures that come from the culture of punk rock, who started questioning masculinity and started to give an alternative to those who did not fit. In the shooting in Paris we really felt this connection between these nocturnal animals and the “abandoned architecture” of the romanticised Paris. They represent a decadent narrative and they are fictional and non. On one hand, they are absolutely cinematic, on the other one, they represent the struggle of gender fluid people and they offer an alternative way of being.
Notwithstanding the fact that you clearly state that it is a very personal topic that you are dealing with in the collection, I found some resemblances between you and your overall product, including the chosen models, the choice of garments, silhouettes, aesthetic and narrative. It almost seemed to me that you made clothes for yourself. Do you think I can use the word totalization, to identify the melting process of your personality and the collections?
I think there is an exchange between the characterization of me and the models. Their aesthetics are totally mine as well. And it enhances them. But as well my sharp, black and white elegance was born before the collection, even though Noir Désire really translated it into my work. As I said before, my projects also grew up in conjunction with me. I’m currently working as a tailoring and flou designer at Y/ project, Parisian brand directed by Glenn Martens. The shared values and similar design language spoken with him, made me achieve one of my biggest dreams, working with such a creative and inspiring team, that will enable me to grow and shape my future as an independent designer.
Matty / Furieuse comme un enfant
Artist: Matty / @mattiyyy_
Interview: Alice Lipizzi / @strafiko