Matias Sandoval is a self-made man and a denim expert. He is renowned for his post-heritage vision of denim and his own brand Matias Denim. He has recently created Finefusions, a complete total look capsule collection employing fabrics by two Italian prestigious manufacturers–Candiani Denim and Albiate 1830–according to new creative interpretations.
SI interviewed Sandoval asking about his work and his vision of the denim and jeanswear markets.
How did you start working in fashion? And how was your brand born?
I studied at the USC Roski School of Fine Arts and began exploring fashion in 2004 while still in school.
I first began exploring vintage garments by deconstructing vintage Levi’s and Dior pieces, and asking myself why clothes are made the way they are. From 2006 until 2012 I consulted for various brands and 13 years later, here we are as my main focus has always been my brand. Today I am also collaborating with Candiani as a creative and a denim and design consultant.
I was first exposed to denim as an artist-in-residency at a denim laundry in LA in 2005. I ran machines and did all of my own processing for years. Today I make my own patterns (I learned myself) and manufacture all my products in a small shop in Los Angeles where we actually cut and sew everything.
I founded my brand in 2004, though started exploring the denim world around 2006. We sell both avant-garde inspired denim pants, jackets, shirts and hats but also basic items. We are very focused on product, craft and tailoring. We feel are between modern workwear and “avant-garde fashion.”
What is present denim market situation like?
Japanese and European brands are pushing the bar in terms of style and sophistication. I ’m happy that the “lumberjack” movement–grossly adopted and bastardized as “Americana Heritage Style”–has relaxed a bit as too many brands have simply jumped on a bandwagon.
I’m happy that big brands like Levi’s collaborate with boutiques like Magasin in LA as many big players tend to concentrate less on creativity and research.
However, after a very depressing economic time when shops and designers took little risk I feel they are starting to take new chances and explore less traditional design.
How will the market evolve?
It’s all about the fabrics. Trends are trends, though fabric innovation and sustainability will be the driving forces. Mills, for instance, support creative projects with designers like me to wake the market up.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
My family, friends and connections keep me focused. I get lots inspiration by traveling physically and via Web by exploring art, fashion and industrial design worldwide.
Avant-garde designers from Japan, Italy, Spain, France and Scandinavia also suggest me very, very exciting ideas.
I love Southern California, too. Growing up around the ocean has given me such energy to create. For this reason the surfing and beach culture are always present in my work.
Visiting different factories is also helping me greatly. I would like to consider myself like a craftsman. For this reason I’m always learning from other talented craftspeople who have access to different machines, technology and resources.
What are main differences in the world's main jeans markets?
Most consumers are now generally very price-conscious and shop at H&M, Zara and Uniqlo–all chains offering similar fashion at very affordable prices.
US premium denim brands have started launching some new ideas recently, while the raw, Japanese selvage five-pocket has been a big thing for such a long time and is now over-saturated. There are also some true artisanal jeansmiths in different parts of the world whose work is visible in all three major markets (US, Europe and Asia), though almost undiscovered.
I feel China is a huge market with high potential of growth that started appreciating the top-notch products more and more.
Japan is very interested in creative Americans but has a super strong national jean culture that is very difficult to compete with.
In Europe, I feel like there is a mainstay for the big brands.
You recently created Finefusions, a special complete look capsule collection employing Candiani and Albini’s Albiate 1830 fabrics. What is the inspiration behind this project?
It was a collaboration of indigo concepts. Candiani is known for bottom weight fabrics. So I chose to employ their fabrics for more jackets. Albiate 1830 is known for shirtings, so I made dresses and pants out of them. It was an interesting project through which we could show their fabrics interpreted according to unexpected silhouettes. As the launch event took place at Candiani’s Downtown Los Angeles design center and I was helped by Candiani’s fantastic team, I could develop a project that employed those fabrics at their full potential.
What elements tie these two companies' fabrics together?
Their high quality.
Although this collection will not be sold what potential customer did you think of when you designed it?
It was the most freeing experience not to have a customer in mind! I designed everything as a showcase of these fabrics’ qualities.
Do you have a dream in your drawer as any special projects you would love to come true?
I would love to collaborate with Levi’s. I’m not like a “superfan” of this brand, but I’ve always respected it and it has been able to reinvent itself through trends while always staying true to who they are.
It would be amazing working with Rick Owen’s DRKSHDW.
I’m always open to collaborating with designers and large companies, though I also want to make my own brand keep growing.