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Conversations: Toni Maticevski Talks Resort and Making “Polished” Dresses

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia is here. We caught up with the season's star opening act – Toni Maticevski.

And, we’re off! Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia opens with Toni Maticevski, undoubtedly one of the Down Under’s brightest – yet humblest – stars. With the earthy Barangaroo Reserve as the day’s location, the superbly talented Maticevski showed a Resort 2017 collection that was ultra-feminine, structured and crisp – yet surprisingly erotic at the same time. We’ve got the ballroom-worthy big skirts, surely a trademark of the towering Aussie by now, but there were also gloriously ornate handcuffs that were linked to equally stunning chokers at the neck. Several models even held bejewelled metal ball gags in their mouths. It’s a puzzling contrast, but provoking nonetheless. We caught up with Maticevski to talk about the collection and then some – like his preference for doing things himself, right down to the sewing, and the rise of streetwear and the It girl.

Hey Toni! How were the days leading up to the show? (By the way, we actually met  very briefly when you launched your label in Singapore. It was about two years ago, I’d be surprised if you remember.)
I do remember. For someone who doesn’t remember a lot, I do remember that time in Singapore. Things over here were surprisingly smooth. I think I hit my limit a week ago and I was finishing my collection at that time.


What’s your survival routine? How do you stay sane amid the chaos?
It’s not too chaotic here. More people management – that gets intense – managing relationships and expectations, that is the head-f***. [Laughs] Apart from that, chocolate plays a really big part in keeping spirits up.


What was on your mind when you designed the collection?
I think this season, I worked on shapes and feelings of a modernity and a futurism that was imagined 20 years ago, if that makes any sense. I really kept thinking of someone who lived in the Matrix world, someone who lived outside of a normal routine, moves amongst us, lives and breathes a lightness which is almost cast from dark places.


Do you have a favourite look?
There are a few I love, bit I think I love them because the personality of the girl shines through and adds character.


I’ve read that you’re a very hands-on person. You personally sewed the last resort collection, for example, which is not something you see very often, particularly among the big labels. Why is it important for you to be the one to do it?
Well, it just means that I am not limited by other people’s skill levels. I can create and take things that are in my head and activate them really quickly. Sometimes, what may take two to three attempts for someone else to active and achieve is a 5 to 10-minute job for me to create and actualise. I am really quick and really precise when it comes to things and ideas and activating them with my own hands. It’s not always easy to get into someone’s head. And I know that the way I think and the speed in which I think and create can be very intimidating.


Do you sketch? Many designers prefer to go straight to draping fabric.
Sometimes both. More as a rough scribble. I don’t illustrate my ideas anymore. I just don’t have the time to. So, they are more like characteristic scratchings on paper, which to me are used as reminders of a good feeling or a mood that is important to remember when I’m making the pieces.


You make beautiful clothes. I think Maticevski is one of those labels that, when women see it, they want it. What do you think women want, in terms of clothing? In terms of style?
[Laughs] Thank you. I do have to agree. I think some women fall in love with it immediately, some fall in love with it slowly and some just don’t get it because they don’t want to get it, not because they can’t. And I think it’s an allegory for women and men in general. It’s understanding those three personalities and working with the strongest ones, the ones who find love, desire and fantasy and who want it.


There’s been a recent shift in fashion and what people want from it. It’s not so much top-down anymore. The street is a major, probably the biggest influence in the recent seasons and brands in turn seem to have responded with more “streetwear” collections. What are your thoughts on the shift? Especially since Maticevski’s got a dressier, dramatic edge.

I think, if anything, it is a thinking of taking something dressier, tailored and polished to the street. For me, that’s where the power of dressing comes into play. There are many people who only consider my brand and clothes as dressy, but I consider them as polished, tailored, refined – terms usually associated with dressier things or evening wear. But what’s been important is seeing how this gets translated into street or the everyday. That’s where the real power is. Not in those who limit their imaginations to what they perceive.


Do you see yourself influenced by the streets?
Sometimes. I think it’s more about how to piece things together and giving myself more freedom in pressing for ideas that may clash and letting that evolve.


What about social media and It girls? They seem to play such a big part in making something desirable these days.
To an extent. I find that sometimes, it can be a hindrance. But most times, if done genuinely and with real mutual respect and admiration, and not a staged paid thing, it resonates with people. I don’t think the audience is as stupid as they are painted. Everyone’s aware, everyone sees how things have come to manifest these days, and that’s where I see the strength in the relationships I have been able to have with these people. It’s a genuine affection and admiration.


Where do you want to see Maticevski going next?
I have big aspirations for the brand and for myself. That’s something I keep close to me and my team. I have learnt that some things don’t need to be put out into the universe, and some things, important things, need to be kept to fuel the fire and drive that ambition.


And finally, what’s your post-fashion week detox? Netflix on the couch for the next few days?
[Laughs] Neither. Unfortunately, it’s back to the studio to see what the deliveries and production department are doing, seeing what fabrics have arrived for the summer collection – immersing myself in the creative process again. Oh, there are also a few side projects that really need my attention. Maybe, at the end of the day, I might throw on a movie on my computer, but it will still be working alongside me into the wee hours.


Photos: Candice Chua

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