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An interview with Matty Bovan

Hi, I'm Shara and I went along to meet fashion designer Matty Bovan and PhD student Zara Worth to ask them about their recent fashion project.

An interview with Matty Bovan

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to explore the London Design Biennale 2018 at the beautiful Somerset House. My role was to interview two key biennale participants from Leeds Beckett – the very talented fashion designer (and Beckett lecturer) Matty Bovan, and Zara Worth, a fellow Beckett student who worked with Matty at the exhibition.

Leeds was one of only three cities exhibiting and the installation was sponsored by LBU and Leeds 2023. The theme of the biennale was ‘emotional states’ and there were some truly inspirational pieces from the 60 countries and three cities that took part. Australia based their installation on becoming the 26th country to legalise same-sex marriage, while Japan used one of our senses to provoke an emotional connection with scratch-and-sniff wallpaper scented with roast duck and egg tarts.

The Leeds installation, curated by Matty – titled ‘Just/Unjust’ – was inspired by a carved wooden chimney piece depicting the “Dance of Death” in the Red Drawing Room at Burton Agnes Hall, an Elizabethan manor house in Yorkshire, near his York base.

I was lucky enough to meet and interview Matty. Recognised as an emerging designer by the New York Times and Vogue, Matty has designed for big names like Rhianna and Rita Ora. This was a slightly nerve-wracking experience for me but an exciting opportunity that I grabbed with both hands!

Matty Bovan

How has growing up in north Yorkshire impacted/inspired your work?
Matty: York is full of history and there’s a vast amount of history that spans across the architecture of Yorkshire. That really fascinated me as a child. My dad’s family are all from Bradford, so I spent a lot of my childhood time there whilst visiting places such as the Yorkshire Moors, Whitby and Scarborough. They hold such fond memories for me. The Yorkshire Moors particularly stood out to me because of the alien landscape - that is a place that really inspires me and feels like home. I have always been very proud to be from Yorkshire so that’s why it is amazing to be representing Leeds by designing the installation.

From September you will be joining Leeds Beckett University as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Art, Architecture & Design. How do you feel you can inspire the fashion designers of the future?
Matty: I studied an art foundation degree in Leeds and then went on to study a BA and MA in London. Although I am predominantly based in Yorkshire, I think it will be very interesting for students as I will be able to give a perspective on both cities. I want to show young designers that they can be successful outside of London and that there are viable ways to showcase your work in other areas.

Would you say that Leeds is a creative city?
Matty: Yes definitely. Leeds has always had an energy about it and changes so much all of the time, which I remember from being a young kid. I used to go to the markets to check out the different fabrics and materials on offer and still do. There are still the weird and wonderful shops and areas in Leeds. There are still some great independent shops in Yorkshire that you would never see in London. The art is also fantastic - we have the amazing Henry Moore Gallery, the city’s own art gallery, the Hepworth Wakefield, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. There is so much to see and it is so accessible.

How did you know that you wanted to become a designer?
Matty: I was always really focused as a child that I wanted to study fashion design. I’m unsure as to why, because no one in my family comes from that career background. Perhaps that’s why!

Zara Worth

Could you tell us a bit more about your experience and involvement as a project manager and artist?
Zara: It’s been such an amazing learning curve and we really were thrown into the deep end with it. It made the process very collaborative. Matty put a huge amount of trust in me and I think it was a great creative decision to bring in two other artists - it’s been a huge team effort.

What was involved in creating the installation with Matty and the team?
Zara: First, Matty sketched up some general designs of what he envisioned, then I came up with a floor plan. Somerset House is a Grade I listed building which meant there was an added logistical side we had to consider, such as fire regulations. The walls, floors and ceilings are also listed so our plan had to take this into account without quashing any creativity. My role was communicating Matty’s ideas without compromising, but still fitting in with what was actually feasible in such an amazing historic building.

What about your own work? What have you been working on and could you give us an idea of the type of artistic style you have?
Matty: York is full of history and there’s a vast amount of history that spans across the architecture of Yorkshire. That really fascinated me as a child. My dad’s family are all from Bradford, so I spent a lot of my childhood time there whilst visiting places such as the Yorkshire Moors, Whitby and Scarborough. They hold such fond memories for me. The Yorkshire Moors particularly stood out to me because of the alien landscape - that is a place that really inspires me and feels like home. I have always been very proud to be from Yorkshire so that’s why it is amazing to be representing Leeds by designing the installation.
Zara: Working on this project is very different to my own practice - I have recently been working with gold leaf and making short videos on Instagram. I also had my first solo art show in Newcastle, at the contemporary art gallery Vane, which was very exciting!

Do you have any future plans to work with Matty?
Zara: I have project managed far smaller shows and budgets, mainly in the north-east, working with multiple artists, but never on this scale. This has been an amazing opportunity! I’m sure I will see Matty at university when he starts as a senior lecturer and I would love to help him with any future projects.

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Leeds Beckett University

Shara

Hi, I'm Shara and I study PR. 

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