I wanted to write something about MATiAS denim, and more specifically about Matthew Sandoval, the man behind the brand.
He has been, and continues to be not only one of our most versatile and popular brands, but also one of our most humble ones as well.
Tell me a little about your early life -- your first real encounter and fascination with design/fabric and one striking moment that really drew you in.
I think my earliest artistic influences were in the ceramics studio and in working with metal. I was also heavily influenced by Eastern Culture and art-forms both contemporary and historical. I was fortunate enough to have studied Ceramic Art with some well-known Artists such as Ken Price, Peter Shire and Tony Marsh.
After graduating from the Roski School of Fine Art at the University of Southern California, I had spent so much time ‘conceptualizing’ and ‘over-analyzing’ everything I met, I found myself tinkering with different materials and fabrics through painting and sculpture but was always unsure about my direction and focus within the Art World. The idea of a ‘brand’ became a very influential artistic and psychological focus in determining my future; this was after having sold over 500 hand painted hats that I had committed to making for reasons unknown.
The rich American and Japanese history of denim and indigo fabric/fabrication was definitely the primary interest when I first sat at a sewing machine. I think it became my ‘new ceramics wheel’ and fabric ‘my clay’. The garment wash process came later and really turned thing upside down! I was hooked. From there, I began deconstructing old Levis, adding inserts, surface décor and replacing certain parts with contrasts. I spent so much time pondering the make of the Jean itself (rear yoke, front pocket scoops, patch pockets and a little thing called ‘seam-allowance’... This began my self-taught pattern-making education where through much trial and error I was able to answer some of the ‘over-thought’ questions that surrounded my interest in a pair of jeans. Jackets and tops were to follow and think somehow I became a real life designer.
When you design, do you design for a particular customer or image in mind? Who is that person and what does he/she look like and like to do?
We live in a world over-saturated with a multitude of denim brands, fashion brands and over-marketed companies alike and setting yourself apart can be very challenging for so many reasons. We don’t intend to compete with some of the larger corporate denim brands that target the masses.
At MATiAS, We focus on the customer that is searching for something different, something separate, unique and not over-saturated. We live in a Post Modern World, where people come from various cultural backgrounds, more non-traditional professionals have emerged looking for something unique. We target the Avant-garde because we strive to be just that! Many of the customers that reach out to us ironically work as Artist, Musicians / DJ’s, Architects, Actors and I think that the creative person better understands a fellow creative. We are excited and grateful to have the attention of this audience.
Do you think denim is too pigeonholed as "heritage"?
Heritage is an interesting word because everything has heritage; that is to say, everything has history. But specifically referring to Heritage/Americana I will say that Levi Strauss did an exceptional job in engineering the ideology of workwear and our ideas of modern workwear. Meaning, the most interesting thing is that the DNA of the modern jean has not changed regarding its make-up nor its manufacturing.
Traditional shuttle looms that were originally engineered and designed to efficiently help manufacture Levi's, machines and construction techniques that were originally designed and used to mass produce Levi's are all considered normal machines in any denim factory anywhere in the world. MATiAS uses some of these machines to manufacture but we cannot limit ourselves to preserving this heritage...that can be the job of everyone else.
So much denim out there is all about “Raw Japanese Selvage with a Raw Leather Patch” and there is nothing particularly unique about the product, nothing to differentiate it from everything else on the market. So many of these brands are here today, gone tomorrow and some of them grow into amazing brands that seem like they will be around for ages.
There is nothing wrong with them, a lot of them make an exceptional product... it’s just not my aesthetic. I can’t knock heritage as my denim obsession came out of vintage Levi's and you can’t be a denim designer without having an inherit appreciation for this Heritage. I find the fact that denim has such a rich history in American heritage quite a challenge (a very positive artistic challenge) when putting the MATiAS label into context of Americana Heritage. But isn’t it our job to present newness in this POST MODERN WORLD?!
Why MATiAS as a denim-only brand?
In Japan one would work as a Pottery Apprentice for 5-10 years only allowed to make the same traditional tea-cup, before that person would ever be considered a ‘potter’ in any respect. For now I am earning my stripes.
What draws you to Japanese fabric? We know all your pieces come from very limited supplies of dead-stock/special fabrics. What's it like sourcing and meeting these suppliers?
The United States does a great job of growing up too fast. Meaning; we discard tradition to a certain degree to make room for NEW. Technological advances made ‘traditional shuttle looms’ (the looms that create selvage denim) obsolete as the popularity of the denim fad was on the rise in the United States.
Thus, many of these looms were bought and sent overseas to Japan -- a culture that has a super-rich history of weaving fabric as well as yarn-dyeing hemp and cotton in natural indigo dyes, Japanese mills to a great job producing high quality fabrics. Suppliers don’t like to do business with people they don’t like. It’s taken years to navigate and find good ones and years to establish the trust and respect necessary to get a hold of the better fabrics.
Fabric choice is obviously one of the most important things in clothing design, especially so for denim. Can you give us some insight into what sorts of creative thought processes you go through when you select your fabrics?
As the questions implies, fabric comes first! Fabrics inform design/construction and silhouette. I tend to choose more novel ideas of traditional 3X1 denim twill fabrics. Fabric performance is absolutely the key in identifying usable fabrics. Some of the questions I consider would be: how deep is the cast (color: which informs the different wash variables and limitations), what is the lasting hand feel, is it unique...