Australia’s fashion laureate is a classic designer for the digital age

Toni Maticevski is inspired by old couturiers such as Balenciaga and Dior and loves the global reach of social media

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, 5:33am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 January, 2017, 5:33am

The Australian fashion industry has always operated independently from the rest of the world – blame it on geography and topsy-turvy seasons – but things are changing as more designers from Kym Ellery and Dion Lee to Tome designers Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin are making their mark on the global scene.

Among this group is Melbourne-based Toni Maticevski, who is currently enjoying his moment in the spotlight. In just the past year he has launched a ready-to-wear bridal collection, a book and hosted numerous international trunk shows including one in Hong Kong. To top it off, he was named Australian fashion laureate.

Maticevski may be a new name among international fashion circles, but the designer launched his label in 1999 following stints at brands including Cerruti Paris and Donna Karan in New York.

“I don’t know why I decided on fashion except that it seemed to encompass all the things that I wanted to do creatively. It meant I could tap into my interest in art, architecture, music, film, photography, and at the same time I could make women feel beautiful and desirable. I didn’t understand that there was a career to be had until I saw the work of Balenciaga and Valentino. I think the two solidified a lot for me,” he says.

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Maticevski’s rise to fame has been slow and steady. Over the years, he expanded his fashion empire to include girl’s clothing and shoes. The arts world has also inspired him to work on various projects designing costumes for the Australian Ballet, Sydney Dance Company and superstars such as Nikki Minaj. He shows regularly at Sydney and Melbourne Fashion Weeks, but since 2006 also periodically at New York Fashion Week. While all these milestones contributed to his success, it was the rise of social media that took his brand to the next level.

“What’s changed most in the industry is the visibility a person can have purely on social media. It’s no longer a language barrier as most things are visual. It’s great as my audience has really discovered [the brand] in most cases before the market has or some of the stores. They have actually spread the word to the buyers and made introductions. This has been the real power of fashion,” he says.

Maticevski’s designs are definitely Instagram-worthy with dramatic volumes and couture flourishes. Many of his silhouettes are complex, thanks to twisted shapes and draped fabrics in various textures and weights. He also explores tailoring and construction by combining classical and fluid silhouettes. Volumes are soft and executed in luxurious textiles such as chiffons, silks, satins and tulle. The look is elegant, with a hint of the unexpected; classic with a twist of innovation and futurism.

“I think my head may be in the clouds at times in fantasy, but my feet and understanding of how I can dress women is definitely grounded. It’s having just enough of the two to inspire its use and the wearers imagination,” he says.

It’s evident in his recent resort 2017 collection which he describes as, “romantic futurism.” Styles such as sculptural ballgowns, pencil skirts and origami bodices are suspended, slashed, strung up, abstracted and voluminous. Many are accented with ties or folded and ruffled hems.

The textures are a feast for the eyes while a colour palette of white and ivory to add softness. This is contrasted with refined black tailoring, in fabrics such as linen with leather accents.

Although Maticevski’s designs appear modern, his methods which include couture cutting techniques from the 1930s and ’50s, pay tribute to seasoned couturiers like Balenciaga and Dior. In a similar vein, he drapes and samples each piece by hand, making them close to bespoke.

“It’s about understanding and experiencing why fabrics can create certain shapes and volumes, why some don’t and seeing how much I can push them from their perceived ideal uses.

I like making sure that a collection can be interchanged from a piece you may have bought four or five seasons ago and you add a piece every season that becomes a larger language about your own personal style rather than being captive to a single season,” he says.

Despite his success, Maticevski is determined to keep growing the brand at a measured pace and doing things his way. There are no plans to add diffusion lines, but to continue doing what he does best in order to differentiate himself from his peers in what is already an over-saturated market.

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“My goal is to always create special, innovative and remarkable pieces to add to people’s lives and way of dressing.Part of me loves the drive and craziness of the industry, and the consistent challenge. At the same time I think there are too many things that have become regimented and introduced to keep certain brands competitive and have tilted the industry to breaking point. I think the change in how some brands choose to be positioned and do their own thing is what will eventually make fashion freer and grow individuality,” he says.