Matthew Adams Dolan On How He #SplitFrom The Pack
Do you remember the first garment you ever made?
Matthew Adams Dolan: The first thing I ever sewed was a pair of boxer shorts with puppies on them. It was in home economics class when I was 15 and lived in Japan. It was a disaster!
You chose to pursue a life in the creative arts. Was there any inspiration from your parents?
Dolan: I grew up with my mom sewing since she was a little girl, so it's something that I've always been surrounded by. There was always a big sewing room in the house. After I finished grammar school, she stopped sewing clothes so much - she was more interested in quilting. We had a big quilting machine in the garage that took up a whole car space. And then now that I’ve moved out, my old bedroom is another sewing room now, so there's a lot of them. A lot.
For me, it’s not about just changing them, but it is about presenting them in a different context and getting us to think about what those presentations mean.
Your designs break away from what’s traditionally expected in American sportswear. They change and split from those forms in a pretty radical way.
Dolan: For me, it’s not about just changing them, but it is about presenting them in a different context and getting us to think about what those presentations mean. Take a pair of jeans. Jeans are so ingrained into this idea of the American West and cowboys and working in a mine, but then at the same time, they’re inseparable from ‘90s hip-hop style, they were a crucial part of punk culture, and in the ‘50s they symbolized this whole new idea of what it meant to be a teenager. All these different moments and different parts of society that a pair of jeans has been such an important part of. I'm super interested in unpacking those ideas.
Your work is embraced in the high fashion world, but you seem more interested in how the average person on the street is dressing themselves.
Dolan: Look at what has happened in streetwear! At the highest level, fashion is often about elitism, but now you see that the most coveted items, instead of being these extravagant dresses, are instead a new pair of sneakers.
It’s really interesting to look at how that has changed, and then think about what that means for our ideas of luxury.
At the highest level, fashion is often about elitism, but now you see that the most coveted items, instead of being these extravagant dresses, are instead a new pair of sneakers.
The meaning of “America” is clearly a huge presence in your work.
Dolan: Fashion, just by its nature, is always super reflective of society. You look at the situation that we're in as a country, and what's happening in the world – there's a certain responsibility as a designer to make a reflection of what's going on. I'm interested in ideas of tradition and legacy: what it means to be an American now, what it means to be an American fashion designer, or an American brand. It’s especially poignant in the current circumstances.
Fashion, just by its nature, is always super reflective of society.
For both America and for your design practice – what are your hopes for the future?
Dolan: When you go overseas and see how people look at Americans now –especially for me, being so interested in looking at American fashion as a way of navigating what's going on in society –there's such a divisive energy. But I think what American fashion has always been about is ideas of democracy and emancipation. That’s something that has a very long tradition. At the root, it’s about clothes being for everyone. I’m interested in looking at that legacy and proposing it as a way of imagining how people should dress today.
At the root, it’s about clothes being for everyone.