Matthew Williamson: Big on Boho

The designer famed for his fantastical bohemian prints is expanding from fashion to furnishings

 

The hectic schedule of fashion has savvy designers turning their hand to the much more lucrative licensing deals of home furnishings and furniture. John Rocha did it with crystal and bedlinen. Paul Costello’s homewares for Dunnes fly off the shelves. And Ralph Lauren’s signature polo horse is stitched on to as many towels as polo shirts.

Matthew Williamson is the latest name on this expanding roster: last year the Mancunian made a bold move to step away from the London catwalk in order to reorganise his business and focus on a direct-to-consumer apparel and lifestyle concept via his London shop and website.

It is a smart move for Williamson, who spent three years in the mid-Noughties as creative director at Pucci and who has always been more of a print than fashion house. He had already proved his bankability by collaborating with wallpaper and fabric house Osborne & Little, The Rug Company and high-street chain Debenhams (where he sells under the brand Butterfly By Matthew Williamson).

His mother’s fearless love of wearing prints gave Williamson his first love of pattern, and a trip to India at the age of 18 opened his eyes to the intense colours and patterns that are his calling card.

“I’ve always been drawn to decorative pieces and their craftsmanship,” he says, “but to see how people dress and are in the different climates of the world really took me out of my comfort zone.”

Growing up in Manchester at a time when the Hacianda club forged the reputations of The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses further informed his style. So did the punk rockers, rockabillies and mods who congregated at Affleck’s indoor market.

The trip to India combined with his love of music helped him draw an equally hedonistic crowd of A-listers such as Sienna Miller and Kate Moss around him: they were all “papped” in his creations.

Aynhoe project

Park

Owned by James Perkins, who made his money organising raves in the 1990s, Aynhoe Park was already a pretty unique set-up with taxidermied big game sharing floor and wall space with contemporary design and family heirlooms.

Another collaboration, this one with installation artist Rebecca Louise Law at Blakes Hotel Kensington, led to the creation of a special bohemian hideaway, a horticultural oasis for Hendrick’s Gin to coincide with opening of the 2015 RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

This year Williamson was invited back to make the courtyard a permanent fixture, and he may be asked to redecorate another room within the hotel. He hopes “it will snowball” from there.

Williamson has been busy in 2016. He teamed up with sofa and armchair company Duresta to create a patterntastic range of seating, which launched at Milan. He collaborated with CB2, a division of US home giant Crate and Barrell, to expand stateside, stepping into the same guest designer shoes worn by musician Lenny Kravitz last year when he launched the Chicago firm’s groovy debut collection.

The inspiration for that came from pieces that Williamson has had in his own home for years, including big-ticket buys such as a sofa, as well as entry-level items as a candelabra and coffee and tea sets. He is most excited about a bamboo- legged, resin-topped coffee table, which he says looks like a tropical atoll.

The opportunity was “a no-brainer” and he believes word of mouth will help sell it.

Still, does he ever tire of all the visual noise and yearn for a plain white room? As it happens, Williamson is having a bit of a clear-out.

“I do like to have stuff around,” he says, “but if I leave it too long I get bored. I like to change things around a lot more than we did when I was growing up. I’m going to clear it out first, and I’m quite looking forward to see how it looks as a minimal, blank space that I can start to rebuild.

“It won’t last, but for now I’m going through a minimalist moment.” Stop the printastic presses.

Matthew Williamson: Fashion, Print & Colouring Book, which leverages his 20-year-old archive of bright, nature-inspired prints, has just been published. See matthewwilliamson.com.

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