We’re into the work of Matthew Miller and Kenneth MacKenzie. We’d noticed they were both into each other’s work. So why not get them both together for a chat? Meeting up in Miller’s new East end studio for a chat and drinks, we did just that. Topics ranged from Duffer, LC:M, being seen as politically charged and whether phrases like high and low fashion meant anything to them. The results are after the leap.
Miller: I think fashion is sometimes too fashion. Then men go, “That’s ridiculous,” and then they don’t buy into it. As a result, it never takes off because men are saying, “What a bunch of dicks.”
MacKenzie: They wanna be normal.
Miller: They care about the detail, they care about the story, they care about what it’s about. Whereas fashion always wants to glaze over that and make it fabulous. And, for me, that’s not what menswear is about. It’s not about being fabulous. If you go back into it, the most interesting thing about it is the subcultures. Why you bought it, what you were doing on a night out with it. It is the stains.
MacKenzie: Those times when people wore things that weren’t accepted.
Miller: Growing up on my estate I remember people going, “What the fuck are you wearing?” “I’m going clubbing, what did you think I was doing?” Men’s fashion isn’t informed by the hierarchy of the catwalk, it actually comes the other way around. I didn’t grow up looking at catwalks, I grew up looking at people in clubs, people in subcultures. But sometimes when you put stuff on the catwalk it loses that connection with masculinity.
MacKenzie: What’s been good [is] the education through blogs. A generation of guys going, “This is why you’re paying for that” and the knowledge that the whole Chinese mass market thing didn’t destroy everything. People still want things made in America, UK, Japan, Italy. Then on the other side, it’d be quite nice if the writing was more in depth. But because the speed of information is so quick people don’t want that.
Miller: There’s a thing now where every magazine is becoming a store. I don’t understand why people don’t have their own jobs to do. There’s no need for everyone to be the generator of content, the publication, the store and everything else.
MacKenzie: When a blog becomes a store it starts to contaminate the writing, because they wanna write about what they’re selling.
MacKenzie: That’s the biggest challenge now for stores, to have that specialism. To build that clientele. And for brands as well.
MacKenzie: That’s why I was interested in what Matthew’s doing. At one point I felt like the last guy in the garage playing krautrock or something. Everyone else had moved onto Heritage – everything’s gotta be worn and heritage and I’m listening to Can going, “This is alright though,” thinking I was going mad.
Miller: The whole heritage thing is pretty much dead now surely? What happened with Duffer? That was my favourite thing, an iconic brand. It was in all the shops where I came from. All the proper shops like Inifinity in Stoke on Trent. The hoodies. Did it just get consumed?
On London Collections: Men and Competing with Paris
MacKenzie: I don’t really go to many of those shows in London Collections: Men because I kinda think it should be for the hardcore of the new brands.
Miller: It feels like London Collections is a new entity. The danger that it’s got is being bogged down with the brands that now wanna jump on it just because it’s been created. People put in the hard work for six years, brands like Carolyn Massey, who started it but never really got anywhere because it was so new and so disposable. They put in all the hard work and now everyone jumps on it.
MacKenzie: I think it’s a balance as well. There’s things like mine and then there’s things that are also product but fashion as well. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s real fashion but it’s still product design. What I don’t see at LFW is really good commercial brands. That’s just my personal opinion. Ideally I’d like to see it being like Paris with Dries and Raf, fashion in that sense.
Miller: I completely agree. When LC:M came around, my view was to get to the point where I was competing with Paris and I was seen as a competing market for Paris. My point of view was that it has to be interesting and relevant to what we’re in today. But it also has to be really high quality and really high caliber. Otherwise, it’s just gonna die.
On Being Called Politically Charged
Miller: And last season, just asking men to write down the way that they feel [was labelled as politically charged]. People were saying it’s politically charged. But the fact that you’re asking men the way that they feel isn’t that political is it? It’s more emotional and emotive if anything.
MacKenzie: Some of it’s pretty simple stuff though. If you’re gonna do a fashion brand without a massive company behind you, do what you want. Bring in your own preoccupations that are not fashion. If you just sit there trying to do fashion you’ll go mad. If you think you’re an interesting person and you’ve got interesting ideas, I always think it’s the other things that we’re interested in that sometimes I think we’re more interesting than fashion. You wanna bring that stuff in because it’s all part of you isn’t it?
Miller: I don’t think anything becomes interesting in fashion until a person puts the clothing on. That adds a completely different perspective and function and use. That’s when it goes from product to something that’s interesting for me.
MacKenzie: That’s a really important point. Everything you do is political.
Miller: It was completely irrelevant. That whole statement is what we’re seeing in journalism at the moment is this whole Simon Cowell effect of journalism where if you’re not advertising people think they need to find a reason to attack you or bring something down.
Miller: This is something that fashion is missing at the moment. I don’t think anyone really says anything. Everyone sits on the fence. People don’t buy into something that hasn’t got authenticity unless it’s mass market and can be consumed because of price. But to start something on your own, you have to have some kind of authenticity and you can only get that from your own beliefs.
MacKenzie: It’s a battle. Always a battle doing your own collection. Turns you into someone else, sometimes you don’t like it. Sometimes most people don’t like it.
Miller: Speaking to a massive buyer and they were talking about another designer who stopped making clothes for men. After every show he just locked himself into a hotel for a month and a half because he just can’t take the fact that it’s so personal to him and he puts it out every time and it either gets slated or it doesn’t. It is quite personal, it is that battle. You put it out there and you’re like, “Fucking hell, that’s a bit personal now,” and you allow people to attack it or do whatever they want with it.
On “High” and “Low” Labels in Fashion
Miller: [Fashion is] devalued because you’re in it so much.
MacKenzie: It only matters if it’s good.
Miller: That’s where the value comes in. If it’s good, not necessarily if it’s a label. You don’t care about the label because you know the full value of it in terms of design, manufacture, production and distribution. Generally the value is in the idea. That’s when you start appreciating something. That’s where the real value is.