Matthew Williamson’s debut last week had Cairo abuzz, part of the weeklong promotional launch held for SODIC’s new development Forty West.
A fashion show was organized in conjunction with HIP Boutique, the lone store in Egypt that carries pieces from his prêt-a-porter and eveningwear collections.
Thirty looks were revealed on the catwalk, an amalgamation of all the designer is synonymous for: Intricate beading detail, bright colors, graphic prints and the sense that the Matthew Williamson woman has grown up.
Since launching in 1997, the brand’s spirit has always had a boho feel. While boho-chic is now dead as a trend, Williamson manages to capture the spirit of edginess and cool without it looking dated or particular to one genre.
A collection of eveningwear and casual separates in chiffon, organza and silks were visually enthralling. Eveningwear, unlike current trends of short and heavily embellished, was long with embellishment kept to one area of the dress as a decorative band under cleavage or as a necklace.
Kelly greens, saturated aquatic blues, and limes were used – imagine the silhouettes of Grecian goddess robes made contemporary with vibrant colors and you will get a sense of Williamson’s catwalk creations.
Mint greens, purples, blacks, intense primary blues and soft golds were also present. And of course, his trademark: almost psychedelic graphic prints were featured on almost everything, from dresses to shorts.
Also striking was the originality with which he used materials and mix of textures. Linens were embellished with feathers, geometrically shaped add-ons decorated sleeves and collars.
Sleeves were designed to have strong lines akin to Wonder Woman outfits, cut outs around the waist and back reveal just a touch of skin – all a play on silhouette and form.
Pantsuits composed of well-structured bolero jackets and high-waisted hot pants were surprisingly flattering, lengthening the model’s silhouette while giving it curves, using rich and feminine material.
There is a palpable evolution of sorts: Fashion is not about separating eveningwear and its embellished detail from morning or office wear. Williamson has chiffon silk wife beaters, white cotton shirts with embellishments, linens woven with metallic tones can be worn by day at the office and into the night.
While it takes a confident woman to wear these pieces out and about, it also takes a particular sort of woman to embody his spirit. She can be 16 or over 60, she is a traveler, she is experimental; but most of all, she knows how to have fun without compromising the integrity of her taste.
There is nothing bling about the embellishments, rather something that beckons a sense of femininity and modernity of the highest order.
Williamson was unable to attend the fashion show in Cairo, but spoke to Daily News Egypt about his collection via email.
Daily News Egypt: What element in your brand has led to the growth of Matthew Williamson over the past 10 years, and to the evolution of the Matthew Williamson woman for whom you design?
Matthew Williamson: My enduring aim over my career has always been to create beautiful, covetable clothes that women of all ages would like to wear. The collections have remained unapologetic in their use of strong color and intricate embellishment whatever the prevailing trends.
I hope that people buy a Matthew Williamson piece to treasure and keep rather than use as a seasonal piece and I think people appreciate the integrity of this.
What pieces in your Spring/Summer 2010 collection epitomize the philosophy of Matthew Williamson for this season?
The collection has all the key elements of my aesthetic; beading, prints and feminine silhouettes. The heavily beaded floral amour piece has a great balance between the traditional and the modern, a juxtaposition that I often work with in my collections.
Elsewhere the Lotus Chiffon Bubble dress is very on brand for me. The print is inspired by nature, an important area that I reference often, but is enlarged almost out of recognition to give it a modern, almost psychedelic feel.
Great graphic art and fashion design were overlapping on the runway. What inspired this current collection? And what do you generally look to for inspiration?
I was inspired this season by an amazing artist called Jim Lambie, his work is something that I have admired for a while, but I thought that this season had particular relevance, especially the Dutch Floral work.
I find inspiration from all sorts of places, London is such a great place to live with access to so many museums, art galleries and exhibitions. In between seasons I also travel quite a lot, taking my camera and sketch book with me just in case anything catches my eye!
Sometimes quite an innocuous photo, when I look back at it, has some nugget of an idea that I can use to start a print. For example I took a trip to Cuba and used a photo of some buildings to inspire a stained glass window graphic print.
What inspired your menswear collection? And if one could define the Matthew Williamson man, who would he be?
The idea came about as I thought there was a gap in the market for truly luxurious menswear collection that had a vibrant but ultimately wearable palette. I have also always been a huge fan of scarves and it was too much temptation for me to be able to design some for myself!
I would picture the Matthew Williamson man as someone much like myself, someone who appreciates a wardrobe which expresses his personality and who wants to wear the best possible quality.
Your collection resonated with women in Cairo. Have you ever visited the Middle East? And have you ever been inspired by the region?
I have visited Cairo before and was struck by the vibrancy of the city; there seems so much life everywhere! I opened a standalone store in Dubai earlier this year and when designing the interiors I really worked at bringing the local environment into the space so that it really felt like Matthew Williamson in Dubai rather than a replica of my London or New York stores.
How do you think fashion has changed since you started designing? Where do you think fashion will take us in the next decade?
I definitely feel that fashion has changed over my time as a designer, but essentially I think that we have resisted the urge to work in a purely commercial way. We can still be proud to say that we work within a creative industry.
Matthew Williamson can be purchased from HIP Boutique, 3 Amman Square, Dokki, Cairo. Tel: 3336-4182 or 016-881-4909