Every London Fashion Week births a new name but rarely was the buzz been louder than around Fashion East’s latest addition, CSM MA gradute Matty Bovan. Since graduating last year, and probably a little before, Bovan has by turns, impressed and disturbed, astounded and moved front row aficionados with his sumptuous, otherworldly knits.
His graduate collection earned him the LVMH Graduate Prize 2015, for which he won a year at Louis Vuitton under Nicholas Ghesquière. Before starting at LV, he met and bonded with LOVE Magazine founder Katie Grand, a friendship which led to Bovan’s illustrations being used in Marc Jacobs’ SS16 collection. Bovan also appeared in the campaign, shot by David Sims, alongside Sky Ferreira, Emily Ratajkowski, and Jamie Bochert.
Since then, he’s created installations for Miller Harris; customised mannequins for the Miu Miu Resort 2017 Presentation during Paris Couture; styled a 70-page portfolio for LOVE 16 Autumn/Winter 2016 issue alongside Grand and fellow Fashion East-er Charles Jeffrey, putting together looks for Iris Law, Georgia May Jagger, Poppy Delevingne, Lara Stone; designed postcards for the British Fashion Council for the recent Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall and was listed in Dazed100 for 2016 in collaboration with Calvin Klein, which outlines 100 leading creative lights of the future.
In Bovan’s work, rainbow yarn, Lycra jersey, neon velour and gold Lurex, plastics, glitter and rhinestones are exuberantly spun together to create pieces that simultaneously skim the body and fall or arch away from it in sculptural waves. The impression is one of construction/destruction, a gathering of detritus to make a proud but fragile whole.
Bovan, who is his own fit model, designs for himself. Image after Instagram image shows him angular and exhausted, in a cacophony of garish eye make-up and a brutally high fringe. It’s no coincidence that, during his SS17 catwalk shows, a lot of the models looked an awful lot like him.
His mentor, the late Louise Wilson, was partly responsible for this confluence of personal image and art, unusual amongst designers. ‘Louise told me to photograph what I wear everyday as a document,’ Bovan said to vmagazine.com. ‘It broke down that wall I had in my head and allowed me to merge what I was saying and doing unconsciously alongside my research and ideas. It has been very freeing and I still practice that today.’
Inspiration for SS17 merge late 1980s New York, the neon world of Stephen Sprouse and Maripol, with English pagan symbols, which appear throughout the collection: from Bovan’s logo – a four-legged creature of indeterminate origin that might have been scratched on a cave wall or a bus shelter – and high-tech stone-age accessories, to big, shaggy, heavily decorated coats: vestments for shamanistic rituals in an age of plastic.
Fabrics are shredded and knitted, crocheted and woven like raffia with reflective tape and plastic; surfaces are handpainted by Bovan using acrylic, spray cans, nail varnish and puffy paint. Prints appear aggressively huge, again executed by hand, celebrating the haphazard in a world of digital perfection. Those symbols are present throughout the collection,
It’s joyously exuberant, yet there’s a darkness in the Day-Glo, a sort of fin-de-siecle excess that precedes a tragic, knowing end-of-innocence. And that perhaps, is why Bovan’s works resonates. As he said to vmagazine.com, ‘With times so bleak politically, I feel having your own viewpoint—even if just a creative output—is incredibly important. When money runs out and people lose hope, you have to create your own vision of the world.’
Here’s what some of the best have to say about him:
‘The adorable colour explosion that is Matty Bovan has finally shown his first collection under his own name for SS17. Thank god for that! His fierce models strutted down the runway looking like the coolest party animals out there. It was an homage to the incredible creativity of club kids, pulling together anything and everything to create a fabulous outfit. There were sequins, there was glitter, nets, tassels and charms dangling from every possible surface. There were girls who looked like mermaids just washed out of a party sea, iridescent shell embellishments still attached to their outfits. The garments were shredded, hanging off almost, there was plastic and reflective tape, hand-painted surfaces, earrings that looked like they’ve been made out of play-dough… anything you can imagine, really. It was a masterclass in customisation, making do with whatever you own and getting your friends to help out. Tatty Devine worked with Bovan on the plastic earrings collab, a match made in heaven, there were bags by Coach and sunnies by Linda Farrow all customised by the designer himself, and even clay jewellery made by his mum. It was all hands on deck for SS17, but it just goes to show what you can create by being resourceful and imaginative. At times, those who spend crazy cash on their collections actually make them quite alien and artificial, but Bovan made his girls into those everyone wants to be friends with. A bit wild, a bit chaotic and unexpected, but so, so much fun!’ wonderlandmagazine.com
‘The hysteric beauty of the pieces defies you to look away: not quite sculptural, not quite a snarl, a fracas of rainbow yarn, glittering gold Lurex, and who knows what else. They marry the homespun and cosmically, psychedelically strange to jaw-dropping effect.’ vogue.com
‘Matty Bovan made psychedelic waves with his first LFW appearance. With a tinsel-like effect, his loud – screaming – and bold outfits left the audience (virtual and real life) cheering for more.’ LOVE Magazine
‘Grand went on to commission him to style a shoot for the latest issue of LOVE (alongside another rising star, Charles Jeffrey) and invited him to customize mannequins for a recent Miu Miu Resort presentation in Paris. “When he worked on the Miu Miu project, what Miuccia loved about him was that he could change everything so quickly,” Grand says. “He’s got a confidence in his approach.” Grand, who is acting as a creative consultant for Bovan’s debut show, which will be held on Saturday in London, says: “There’s a lot of expectation around him. He’s pretty high-profile for someone who’s not had a show and I will be very surprised if he doesn’t fulfill those expectations.”’ nytimes.com
‘…a palpable sense of excitement in the crowd surrounding Bovan’s debut; a sure reminder of the fearless creativity London is renowned for.’ www.dazeddigital.com
SHOW CREDITS Styling: Matty Bovan Creative Consultant: Katie Grand Hair: Syd Hayes using BaByliss PRO Make Up: Miranda Joyce using Marc Jacobs Beauty Casting: Anita Bitton Nails: Chisato Yamamoto Music: Steve Mackey