Matthew Adams Dolan is Leading the Next Wave of American Designers
Matthew Adams Dolan’s formulations of denim are both a hug and a pool, all fluent in ROYGBIV. He injects new life into the landscape of the American wardrobe. Dolan digs into unconventional takes on iconic brands, but where is home in his designs? If we stare long at his obsession with the evolution of style, one soon realizes it could never be as simple as New York City. We might guess ‘home’ is the respect he’s earned among the fashion community, and the unwavering support of his peers.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 15th issue of ODDA Magazine.
You’ve spent time in various places across the globe. Which do you turn to with the most nostalgia?
I think that there are memories and experiences that I carry from all of the different places I have lived in. I often think about what a crazy decision it was, as a fifteen year old, to leave my family and go and live in a small town in Japan, but I am so glad that I did.
What do the exaggerated lines of your oversized clothing say about your personal relationship to the body?
I think that ease and comfort are such defining parts of the discourse of American style, so these ideas are very much at the foundation of how I like to approach silhouette and fit. I often work by amplifying and exaggerating shapes that echo how clothing is worn, be it a dropped shoulder or a curved sleeve, so that these ideas become a part of the garments structure and give the clothes an energy and attitude. Regarding a personal relationship to the body, I think people feel most confident when they are comfortable.
What person of the present or past would you most like to dress?
Aaliyah! Whitney! Prince! Michael! Thinking about figures that I always loved while growing up and was always inspired by.
There is always opportunity in the future, so I guess it is about reflecting on the past and who I wish I could have worked with. Also all major looks!
What is your own favorite outfit to hang out in? And to go out in?
I wear basically the same thing every day. Nothing very exciting, a t-shirt or a sweatshirt and jeans.
“I DON’T THINK THAT ‘BEING NICE’ SHOULD LOOK ANY DIFFERENTLY IN FASHION” – MATTHEW ADAMS DOLAN
You appear driven by a deep sense of Americana. What kind of story do you see a full Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein ensemble telling a passerby, and what about it do you seek to re-imagine?
What I l find so interesting about this kind of look is that it is so inbuilt into a greater American culture, but it has also been exported to society across the world. I think there are varying levels to it, chinos and a polo shirt, or jeans and a button up have kind of come to define a middle class wardrobe, whilst there are other elements like seersucker, madras, cable knit, etc, that are synonymous with a WASPy, elitist, Hamptons set and college fraternities. This kind of lifestyle brand, which is a very American idea in the first place, has so many ties to the idea of the American dream, they are built on aspiration, and sort of being able to buy into a certain quality of life. These kinds of stereotypes, so intrinsically linked to certain elements of the American wardrobe, present an opportunity to explore ideas of diversity, community and a multitude of American identities in the current social climate.
What shapes or patterns are you uninterested in working with in
Maybe cow print? Though Monique Heart did put forth a convincing argument. I think working with something you are uncomfortable with is always the best challenge, how you are able to find a way to make it work for you or for what you like. Design is at its essence about coming up with a solution, it is the first thing that you are taught in school. It is about instinct, about making things work.
Share what an average day in your life is like, if we were to be watching.
I usually wake up pretty early and read the news and work through emails. Depending on what is happening, I am usually working on development, sewing samples, running errands, dropping off samples, checking patterns, etc, etc…
What cut or silhouette could all body types move towards with confidence?
A big jacket! I think it is something that really relates to me personally and how I feel comfortable dressing, but also on how I have experienced people interacting with the clothes.
There is something about how it changes depending on how you move, how you feel, a confidence I guess. It is very inclusive by its design, and that is something that makes you feel immediately comfortable. Being comfortable is such a huge part of feeling confident, I think. Being confident is the sexiest thing, no?
In an interview with Vogue Italia, you described, “Work hard, be nice” as the best advice you’ve ever received. What does ‘being nice’ look like in the fashion world?
I don’t think that ‘being nice’ should look any differently in the fashion world. It is an industry that is busy and demanding like any other.
Last piece of clothing you bought?
A pair of trousers for a wedding. I lent my suit to a friend and had nothing to wear, but otherwise I very rarely buy clothes.
What constructive criticism about your work has been difficult to hear?
I don’t think constructive criticism is ever difficult to hear, because at the end of the day you are always able to take something away from it and use it to move forward.
Do you have a favorite scent to wear, or that envelops the place where you are most creative?
Geranium pour Monsieur by Dominique Ropion. I think I have only used this same perfume for the past 10 years since I found it. I very rarely go out, so putting a perfume on is a kind of ritual for me.
You have a background in curation. What is a recent exhibition that inspired your creations?
I really loved the Mohamed Bourouissa’s Urban Riders exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. An amazing body of work looking at identity and community.
As someone who has lived all over the world, if you had to choose one city to shop in or source material from, where would we find you?
Maybe somewhere new. I would love to go to Morocco or India.
Which emotion do you inhabit most when you create your designs? Is it an emotion you’d want someone leaving your fashion week presentation feeling?
Stress! Working with such a small team it’s all about making quick and thoughtful decisions. Having said that, it is definitely not an emotion that I would want someone leaving a presentation feeling. I think overall, especially lately, I have been trying to look at things with a lot more optimism. I think fashion should always in some way act as a social commentary, and we are bombarded constantly with so many horrible things going on in the world. I think it is much more productive to look at things positively, to think, okay, people are waking up now and are wanting to drive change, we can address the current climate in ways other than anger, because there is so much anger we deal with everyday. I think that American fashion has always been about optimism to some extent, and that moving forward I think is something important to celebrate.
Jessica Scicchitano was born and raised in Upstate New York. She is the author of the chapbook "Dear Bucolic Landscape," and received her MFA in Poetry from Syracuse University, where she was the nonfiction editor at Salt Hill Journal. You can find some of her work in Sixth Finch, Prelude, Potluck, Foundry, glittermob, and more. Past internships include Bullett Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Women's Wear Daily. Though working as an editorial assistant at a community college, she wishes to host a show on the Home Shopping Network. This all happens in Philadelphia with her three-legged cat, Will.
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