Matthew Williams honed his skills as a creative director in the music industry before starting out in fashion, and today is the double father of little Alyx – the name of both his daughter and his brand. Things seem to be going from strength to strength for this self-taught fashion figure.
Matthew Williams was born in Chicago, grew up in Los Angeles, and is now based in Ferrara in Italy, and first made a name for himself in the 2000s alongside other cool kids such as Heron Preston and Virgil Abloh. He has more than proved his multiple talents, having worked as a creative director with artistic collectives such as Donda, and on collaborations with Kanye West and Been Trill, which whom he launched several limited-edition collections. Williams’ experience and background has also led him to collaborate with Lady Gaga, work on evening gowns with Alexander McQueen, and assist legendary photographer Nick Knight – with whom he still works on campaigns and lookbooks today. Throughout his many joint-ventures and experiments, Williams quickly realised that the fashion world was where he wanted to be. He launched his own brand in 2015, and named it after his daughter, Alyx.
“I always wanted to have my own clothing brand, because I felt I could bring something different to the table that deserved to be there,” he says.
Since the beginning, his brand has been a success. Williams says he looks up to Hedi Slimane, Raf Simons and Helmut Lang for their classic yet modern style, and his pieces embody the “California dreaming” vibe that inspires him.
“As I grew up in California, my past is sure to inspire my work today. Those years were something that will always be a part of me. But I also have inspirations from many other things and places, whether objects in my day-to-day life, songs I have listened to, or books I have read. I like to take the time to think about how to integrate these elements into my collections,” he says.
California has clearly had a major impact on his life, but it is above all the diversity of subcultures and their rich heritage that have forged the identity of Alyx Studio to offer a subversive vision of luxury. With a healthy pinch of daring, the brand captures the nonchalance of patent leather items, the improbable aesthetic of oversized suits, and interplaying transparency in its creations. But this multiplicity of materials and an ultra-street desire for modernity hide a real taste for all things technical.
“At Alyx, we pay close attention to the creative processes, the manufacturing, and the unique ways our pieces are crafted. For example, next season we will be working on some really cool clothing dyes, as well as washing treatments for various fabrics. It’s incredible to see how different treatments produce such creative results depending on the materials you are using,” says the designer.
With this approach, technicity therefore becomes a seal of quality, while the composition and feel of the fabric denote a certain eccentricity. By exploring often hidden territories, turning up where you expect him, and breaking down borders, the designer really is full of surprises. This attitude has allowed him to infuse Alyx with an energy that can often be provocative, as seen in the sweater printed with a colourful “Fuck you” – one of the brand’s best-selling pieces. This successful item has now been rolled out for both women and men, with the launch of a menswear line last September.
“I always wanted to have a menswear line but I felt more capable of starting with womenswear. However, I really wanted to learn and explore further after taking the time to grow up and develop my skills. I needed to be appreciated and respected before adding menswear into the mix,” says Williams.
This latest addition is a clear reflection of the current influence wielded by Alyx Studio, which can now be found in a multitude of exclusive collaborations. Whether Vans, Mackintosh, or e-commerce site Ssense, the brand hasn’t stopped producing creations for all tastes, driven by a constant desire to showcase that street spirit.
“Collaborations are important in my vision of fashion because I like working with others so much. I think that creativity and new ideas are often born of this sort of experience. I also like to promote brands and companies with a beautiful heritage, whether it’s their brand identity, history, or manufacturing methods,” he says.
But in light of his success, upon every new encounter and experience the designer is quick to remind people – in all modesty – of the simple, deep-seated reasons that push him to continue developing his vision of an urban aesthetic.
“I’m here to make high-quality clothing steeped in emotion, regardless of the form it might take or how others may see it.”
It seems like a lost cause, therefore, to ask him to try his hand at slow fashion. After all, this question wouldn’t even register with the designer, who is fully focused on the creation of high-quality clothing. This is the most important thing for him, and it justifies his desire to take his time and do it right.
It’s also fairly pointless trying to identify the “Alyx Man” or “Alyx Woman.” Williams prefers for “clothing to be flexible, so that people can wear it and not the other way around.” However, this constant analysis of the design and lifespan of clothing also leads inevitably to the question of sustainability as a present and future commitment Alyx is certainly looking to develop.
“Sustainability means so much to me, and should be developed more in all industries. We have worked with recycled cotton for the last few seasons, and we are continuing to look for other ways to reduce waste. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world (the second-most, in fact). I think that’s going to change, but it has to happen fast!”
A vast subject that is sure to see Williams continue moving and inspiring others.
From Spring-Summer 2018 issue
Photo: Leo Adef
Stylist: Damese Savidan
Groomer: Oceane Sitbon Ghoula
Models: Gabriel @ Premiums models; Linnea @ The Face Paris
Interview Perceval Vincent