Matthew Williamson was on hand at Macy’s flagship Herald Square store last night to celebrate the launch of his Impulse capsule collection for the mass retailer. So was Dree Hemingway, who stars in the line’s campaign, as well as Kelis, to provide the soundtrack. We sat down with the Brit designer, who is no stranger to high street collaborations having done one for H&M a few years back, to find out why he decided to pair up with Macy’s, how he found a muse in Dree, and, most importantly, why he thinks everyone should “get over” Kate Middleton.
Fashionista: So how did this partnership with Macy’s come about?
Matthew Williamson: I was asked to collaborate last year and I was flattered that such an iconic brand like Macy’s would approach me. For me the process of design is the same for my main line collection as it is for the high street level. So it’s exciting to apply the same rules but for a much bigger audience.
What kind of sacrifices did you have to make to design at lower price point?
The process is the same: you come up with the concept in the same way, everything’s very similar but the difference is that it’s got to be affordable and that’s a challenge that I like. The challenge is to create the essence of your DNA–to give the consumer those signature pieces–but it needs to be a cheaper fabric base, it needs to be a garment that is perhaps less intricate than your main line. But that said, it’s interesting to see, at this level, what can be achieved–I think lots people would be surprised at the level of craftsmanship.
Some designers are opposed to churning out fast fashion and designer collaborations. What’s your response to that stance?
To each to their own. A business has to follow its own instincts and if working for the high street is not in your game plan, that’s to be respected. I have respect for people who don’t do it. But at the same time for me it’s never been something that I’ve seen as a dirty secret. It’s great to see a woman in my clothes whatever their budget. I’m a fan of those collaborations.
How did you find Dree? Why was she right for the campaign?
I had just seen her like you had–out and about–and I was really intrigued by her and curious to meet her. She was on my mind as we got together with Macy’s because I thought she’d be a great ambassador for this line. She’s super stylish, she’s a great looking girl, and I guess more than anything, having met her and worked with her, I just really loved her carefree attitude. She doesn’t take things too seriously and that’s something I like to express in my collections–that laid back sense of glamor.
So, I read in the Telegraph a few weeks ago that you don’t think Kate Middleton is a “fashion bunny” and that everyone should “get over” waiting to see what she’s going to wear.
That’s actually a misquote. I was referring to the fact that I’d been asked about her three times previously in the same night so it was more that I was over the fact that I’d been asked repeatedly about her. I’m setting the record straight: I’m a big fan and I’m sure she’ll make an amazing choice [for her wedding dress]. I just feel for her at this time when everything’s at a fever pitch–the pressure must be quite daunting. I think she’s great for British fashion–she’s clearly going to become an ambassador for British fashion.
Would you like to see her in your designs?
There’s a lot of talk lately about the immense pressure designers are under and how that stress is taking a toll. How do you cope?
There’s a struggle across the industry with coping with the demands of so many collections and the relentless pace of fashion today. I thrive on that cyclical nature and I love the blank sheet of paper and the beginning of a new collection. So I try to focus on that and leave the more business aspects to other people.
**All photos courtesy Kent Miller Studios