One of the things that I love about the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards (IFIA) is seeing the work of the Design Students. They are so creative and their imagination at that stage has not been tainted so much by the industry so they really have a truly creative edge. And it was at the 2018 IFIA that I saw the work of Matthew Tanner.
Matthew is originally from Co. Londonderry and is now in his Final Year at Ulster University Belfast. The piece that he showed at the Awards was beautiful – with stunning details on the body of the dress, as well as the draped arms making such an elegant statement. We are delighted to be featuring his work and learning more about his process today on Floralesque.
Have you always had an interest in design?
Yes, I have always had an interest in design ever since I was a child I was always creating something. But it wasn’t until the age of 14 when fashion became my new interest, I always thought I was going to grow up and become an Architect but that all changed when I started creating dresses out of plastic.
When did you first come in contact with fashion that led you to a career in the industry?
Like I said before I was in 4th year at secondary school and Art & Design was one of the GCSE that I studied, and I would say it was ever since then I couldn’t image doing anything else as a career. I don’t have anyone else in my family who has worked in the industry or any creative arts so everything that I have achieved I’ve worked for. I studied Art & Design for my A Levels and after that, I did a 1-year Art & Design (Foundation Year for Specialist Degrees) – BA (Hons) at Ulster University. After that year I knew I wanted a degree in fashion.
Can you please tell us a little about the course that you are doing?
I study at Ulster University Belfast campus, the course I study is Textile Art, Design and Fashion – BA (Hons), and I specialise in fashion (garment construction) and knitwear. I absolutely love my course it has been a great stepping stone to achieve what has been a very educational and rewarding degree. The teaching of our course is very free and creative but also are workshops are equipped with everything that is needed to create and construct knitwear pieces and garment constructed pieces. I also took a placement year and worked in Dunnes Stores head office for a designer like Joanne Hynes and Paul Costelloe.
What drew you to work with knitwear?
I’ve only really been interested in knitwear in the past couple of years ever since my 2nd year at university I developed a passion and the realisation that there is more you can do with knitwear it’s not just Aran knitted sweaters. Ever since then I’ve always respected knitwear because of how time-consuming creating knitwear is and how much work goes into creating each piece but is unrecognised in the finished garment. I knew for my final year collection I wanted to have a combination of fabric constructed garments and knitwear garments. This piece that features in the IFIA is part of my final year collection.
Are there any designers that inspire you?
Yes, I am inspired by a few designers such as Alexander McQueen for me he has always been a huge inspiration throughout my own career and creativity to me he has always been that rebel designer that broke all the rules and back when he was first taking off all his work was extremely taboo but with a real story or message behind everything he did.
Lately, it’s been designer Iris Van Herpen who really pushes the boundaries of fashion and what is considered wearable and she makes it wearable. But I also get my influences from really all sorts of creative people.
Congratulations on featuring in the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards! Can you please tell us a little about the work that you showed?
The garment I featured in the Irish fashion innovation awards is part of my Final Year Graduate collection which will debut at the end of May, but this is the first piece I created as part of my collection but also what I submitted to the IFIA for Student Designer of the Year. I was honoured to have even been chosen as a contestant. The dress I showed at the awards I designed and created by myself and I was inspired by lace and ladder techniques that are created on a single bed knitting machine and there are 8 panels that create the dress and each panel took around two and a half hours to knit by hand on the machine.
In my work, colour is never a priority it’s all about the detail and style so I already knew it was going to be in white. The style of the dress I wanted something that really show off my technique so that’s why I created the mirror effect on the front and back of the dress so my pattern created a triangle effect and for the bottom of the dress is a handkerchief style skirt and the sleeves are a drop shoulder draped off the arm and I wanted the hands to be covered so I extended the sleeves I created slits up to the hand so it’s still functional.
As a young designer shows like the IFIA must be amazing to be a part of. How important is support like this to an emerging designer?
I’m extremely grateful to have been a part of the IFIA and to go to an event that celebrates Irish fashion I think that it is important to support young designers and designers that are just trying to be noticed for their work because I don’t think it’s easy two be noticed for fashion design in Northern Ireland or Ireland because we’re not living in the fashion capital of the world so I think it’s important to have events like the IFIA, Fashion Weeks and any fashion gathering all over Ireland to support designers because it’s all about putting yourself out there to be noticed so that maybe that brings you onto the next big step your career.
Would you have any tips for those who want to study design – something that someone had said to you when you were starting out?
For anyone thinking about a career in design or fashion I would tell them to be true to themselves always stick to your own originality try not to design something that you think is right because it’s maybe current or because it’s what everyone else for designing because if that’s what everyone else is designing, then your own work won’t be original or stand out, for me I don’t find my work so ‘cutting edge’ or ‘never been done before’ but I believe that it’s true to who I am as designer so in that way it makes it original.
It’s really hard to get into the industry and once you are in it’s even harder to get noticed because when you’re working for a designer it may not be the kind of work that you would design yourself so it’s all about adapting yourself as a designer to get into the mindset of how they work. But hopefully one day it will all pay off.
Where would you like to see yourself as a designer going in the next five years?
After I graduate this summer I may go on and study an MA in womenswear fashion or knitwear possibly in London or I would love to work in New York for a couple of years and get some contacts and more experience in industry and really just travel with my work and see the world and gain more knowledge and inspiration so that maybe one day I could create my own label.
A massive thank you to Matthew for doing the interview, I was so impressed with his pieces on the IFIA Catwalk that learning more about him as a designer has been fantastic. You can follow along on his journey on his Official Instagram Page.
All images kindly provided for use.
If you enjoyed this interview in the ‘Floralesque Meets’ Series, then you can click here to read more exciting interviews with designers, creators, artists, photographers, entrepreneurs and more – enjoy meeting the makers!