Matty Bovan: Seeing beyond the glitter curtain

A young designer on a quest for fulfilment and love in the world’s chaos

In less than a month time, Matty Bovan will be unveiling his new collection at Fashion East alongside fellow CSM graduate A.V. Robertson, Mimi Wade and Richard Malone. While both he and his work are most known for the brightly coloured surface, there’s a whole lot more going on internally. We spoke with Matty for our fourth issue and started the conversation reflecting on Nick Cave’s new album, Skeleton Tree, and the driving forces behind creative work at large. The documentary accompanying Cave’s album is rather heavy – it is a prime example of the ‘tortured artist’ and musical production that follows from it; one may agree or disagree, however, about the necessity of enduring such emotions in order to create.

There’s this odd thing about language within music, the power that a combination of words can have. Do you take into consideration aspects of creating your own unique language with your choice of materials or techniques? 

I definitely try and communicate directly through words in prints. At the start of this collection I was using words such as ‘myth’, ‘goblin’ and ‘babby’. I love the association you get with certain words – for me, I like using them directly and indirectly. Of course every designer wants to say something new, but people often find it very hard to read and can dismiss it. Garments are very nostalgic in a way, and it’s interesting playing with that nostalgia and making it feel different. I feel I work differently and sometimes it’s confusing to people, as it’s all very very personal and hard to explain. I guess visually maybe people see a relationship in my work – it’s ever evolving.

Is Matty Bovan the artist very different from Matty Bovan the person? Is what you see what you get? 

I always feel it doesn’t (and may never) fully represent me. It’s very hard to try and communicate all these different emotions, especially in a medium that’s so visual and based on a formula. I understand that people relate the work back to me, which is no bad thing. I feel the way I present myself is maybe more useful for people to understand. I mean it’s basically garments, and myself, and that’s ‘Matty Bovan.’

“It’s very hard to try and communicate all these different emotions, especially in a medium that’s so visual and based on a formula.”

If the inside of your head was a room, what would it look like? 

Hmmmm, can it be a room split in two? Because I guess I feel that’s when I’m very Gemini – opposing sides. One side would be a really dark forest with a huge lake/caves. The other would probably be a fluorescent neon-lit chamber.

Do moments of boredom ever strike? What do you do then?

Well, if I get the chance, I love to read, but really struggle to find the time. I guess the best remedy is to get out of your head and go to a gallery or charity shops, or see friends, or get drunk. Sometimes you need to step back – although I personally find that very hard. I get bored easily, so although I get emotionally very involved with each project, I like to move around a lot and be able to work on seven things at once.

If you could ask one last question to anybody, what and to who would it be?

How do we find fulfilment and love in all the chaos of the world? I ask that openly. I guess in your 20s you’re trying to understand the point of life and the world around you. Well, I definitely am.

You’re hosting a pool party on an NYC rooftop. Which cocktail would be served?

I would have to invent one, and pick the colours and objects in the cocktail. Maybe neon pink with monster ice cubes…. and decorated goblets.

What are your thoughts on the necessity of going through a lot of emotional drama/ trauma in order to create? Your work is so vibrant – does it ever come from a darker place?

I personally find I work best when I’m in a really good positive mental place. When I’m in a not so good place, it definitely produces different work, but the journey can be very uncomfortable.  People always label my work as ‘glittery, girly, fun,’ but I never see it as that. It has loads of undertones of different emotions. This season, for instance, a lot of my inspiration was British folklore; demons and gargoyles. It’s quite subtle, but I see them and the narrative in the work a lot. I like to put something very sweet in a disturbing textile, or something like that. It has to be a bit ‘off’.

Does your work start from real life experiences that you somehow document?

I start with how I want to feel in the clothes and looking at the clothes. I have other inspirations alongside that, which eventually merge with it. It’s all a big melting pot in my head, so it’s hard to unravel. It’s ongoing.

With PJ Harvey – she is ever-changing with each album, yet keeps a thread running through whatever she does. What is it exactly that attracts you to her artistry?

I guess when I was a teenager she spoke to me on some level. I always love her darker, more extreme songs. She represents those emotions 100% to me; things I would struggle to put into words. She gets it. And when you’re growing up, you connect with that powerfully. She’s one of those inspirations who makes me feel calm and at ease in a way.

What do you think are the biggest personal lessons you’ve learnt since the end of your BA, up until where you are now?  I can imagine you’ve gone through quite a bit of self-reflection on the MA, and now you have the experience of producing work in a not-college-environment.​

Definitely. I feel more alive, in a way. I feel I have more strength in my convictions and my work. I guess it’s also an age thing. I realise that I understand my process more, and work to my strengths. I love that after each project I feel like I have overhauled my own process each time.

Words Jorinde Croese Photography James Robjant