Interview Julianna Sacks
MATTER, a garment and accessories label inspired by tradition and ethics, is breaking off from a fashion industry often devoid of social responsibility. On a cross country fundraising trip through India, two friends, co-founders Renyung Ho and Yvonne Suner, decided to form a business based around social change.
MATTER aims to connect the modern consumer with rural artisan production on a sustainable level, merge storytelling with fashion and fosters a compassionate approach to the design process.
In their latest collaboration with Naiise, it seems the perfect fashion line has found the perfect wholesaler. Headquartered in Singapore, Naiise makes thousands of well-designed items accessible to more people with their onlinestore and at their six brick-and- mortar locations.
Until November 19, Naiise is hosting a pop-up shop in London’s Old Truman Brewery, located at 91 Brick Lane, to celebrate their launch in the UK. The “Anti Sweatshop Pop Up Shop” will feature products from over sixty designers across Asia and the UK and an exclusive “Have A Naiise Day x London collection” inspired by all things London.
We sat down with the founders to discuss how they weave sustainability, social responsibility and innovative design into their identity.
As it’s been growing a cult following and become a favorite among travelers, can you tell us about the type of lifestyle and community that MATTER has cultivated?
I think there is a common thread of values between MATTER and our community in the form of believing in the universally binding value of textile artisanship, appreciating the beauty of handmade prints and weaves and supporting the livelihoods of rural artisan communities.
How does MATTER blend modern designs with traditional textiles in a way that appeals to consumers but also maintaining the cultural heritage?
Our pants are designed with inspiration from traditional Asian garments, with a modern edit on the silhouette. On the same concept of old and new, all prints hail from an existing heritage motif tied to a place and time with a cultural story of its own.
Tell us about some of the incredible artisans you work with. Can you talk us through the journey of your products?
Khushiram is our fifth generation blockprinting artisan partner from India and Srinath is our ikat artisan partner in Pochampally. In our last visit with him, he took the time to share with us a fabric he designed and we decided to add it to our Simple Shirt Dress.
The journey of our products is one with many steps in between. We begin by sourcing through heritage blocks in printing workshops for prints with cultural stories and history. We visited over 10 workshops in Rajasthan and found one man who still knew the meaning behind the prints.
From there we go through designing modernized versions of the prints. Knowing the back story of the prints, we design the repeat and layout in the same spirit. Then we go through the processes of carving, color matching, steam dyeing, printing, cutting and more.
We work with the principle of zero-waste pattern-marking, which reduces the leftover fabric.
It’s a pivotal time for our planet with conversations surrounding production and where clothing is sourced from are entering the mainstream. How does MATTER define slow-living and conscious consumption?
We believe in the philosophy of slow: slow production, slow style, and slow design.
What sets MATTER apart from other labels selling artisan/handmade garments?
We truly believe that for rural craft to thrive, we need to build a network that creates access to the market, providing products that, through good design, stand on their own two feet. Our bigger dream is to mainstream textile artisanship, to make sustainable production sustainable by connecting artisans and designers to become a collective that showcases the results of those collaborations.
What makes fashion and design so vital to culture?
Clothing is one of the primary and intimate ways we express ourselves, and textiles surround our everyday lives. We believe that the cultural history of many nations lies in their textile heritage, and it is through the continuation of that narrative, in the prints and crafts of the artisan communities, that we pay tribute to their tradition.
How does MATTER approach winning over a less conscious consumer?
For a customer to make their first purchase from a brand, they are more likely to choose aesthetics and style over their ethos. And so we strive to create with style and design first, choosing traditional garment inspirations with a modern silhouette.
What have been some of the most memories experiences and travels for MATTER so far?
Bringing Khushiram, our fifth generation artisan partner, to Singapore. We brought him to conduct block-printing workshops in 2016, which was exciting. It was his first trip outside of India and seeing his personal insights from that cultural exchange was very fulfilling.
Our customer stories of connection are always memorable. A customer telling us about how she spotted another customer in Matter pants in a farmer’s market in Guatemala, and how they struck up conversation, was an amazing story of connection for us. Our #mattertribe exists in 42 countries and 471 cities around the world, and are all connected by common values. This is what inspires us.
Connected by a cause, the #MATTERwraps collaboration was created together with Aarika Lee and SukkhaCitta. We designed a capsule collection handcrafted in batik by the artisans in the Jlamprang village in Indonesia. All proceeds go towards 3 years of land rental, and building a workshop facility and indigo vat, all in an effort to sustain their economic freedom. Within two days of our launch, it sold out entirely and it heartened us to see how many came together to support.
How do you foster a sense of community with your target audience? Why is this community unique?
There is a common thread of values between MATTER and our MATTERtribe community in the form of believing in the universally binding value of textile artisanship, appreciating the beauty of handmade prints and weaves and supporting the livelihoods of rural artisan communities.
All photography c/o MATTER
MATTER x majestic disorder