Hind Matar

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Exclusive jacquard collection for EXPO MILANO 2015 by MATAR

Meet designer Hind Matar, a Bahrain native who works between London and Bahrain and has lived and studied globally before founding her womenswear brand, MATAR in 2013.. Since then, she has presented three collections at the Designer Showrooms in Somerset House during London Fashion Week fusing her Eastern and Western influences in textile rich, elegant collections. Recently elected by the Bahrain Minister of Culture to represent her native country at the Expo (aka World’s Fair) in Milan for 2015, Hind discusses her journey with the brand and how she aims to preserve and advance heritage Arabic techniques.

You have stated that you are ‘interested in contemporising the Arab aesthetic’ through your designs, could you explain this further?

I have been surrounded by so many rich textures and embroidery growing up in Bahrain, and they are an intrinsic part of my country’s heritage. Many of these intricate traditional techniques such as ‘Al Kurar’ and ‘Al Naqda’ are dying and need to be preserved. Kurar for example is a form of embroidery using gold thread. The Kurar ribbon is created amongst a minimum of three women at a time and immediately embroidered onto a garment. After the Kurar ribbon is completed and sown onto a garment, it is burnished to produce its unique shine and final touch.

I plan to develop these techniques further in my future collections, mixing them with more experimental materials such as rubber and plastic and creating abstract motifs and 3D compositions.

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MATAR AW’15 Collection

Having studied economics and philosophy at the University of Virginia and then worked in advertising, what made you decide you wanted to create a career in fashion?

I’ve always had a keen interest in fashion design, since I can remember, and it has developed stronger throughout the years. I remember watching Style with Elsa Klensch on CNN religiously while growing up and looking through all the fashion books and magazines that my aunt collected. After graduating from the University of Virginia and moving to London, I was inspired by the creative spirit of the city. Individualism, boldness, and the dry sense of humour that one encountered in every corner were instrumental in shaping my career path and I haven’t looked back since.

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MATAR AW’15 Collection

You have previously worked with designers Bernhard Willhelm and Yang Li, two very different aesthetics… How did your experiences differ in the these two studios?

Yes, their worlds are very distinct, yet I can identify with both in different respects. At Bernhard’s studio, we were working in Mexico at the time, and the spirit of the brand and the collection itself encapsulated the vibrancy of Mexico: bold colors, celebration of youth, sense of humour, and a more laid back atmosphere made the whole experience incredibly rewarding and enjoyable.

Working at Yang’s studio was a very serious affair. Yang is very meticulous so we had to be very precise; working with patterns, sewing, tracing. He also has a great eye for fabrics, so it was really inspiring to look at all the fabric swatches in the studio and I learnt a great deal about fabric compositions and garment construction.

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MATAR SS’15 Collection

Living in the US, Bahrain and Europe, you have lived a nomadic life. How have these different countries influenced your work as a designer?

It has been such a privilege to live in distinctive parts of the world, and these experiences have certainly shaped my work. My early years living in the US from the age of two to six, have had a profound effect on me. The road trips, amusement parks, Disney cartoons and the sense of freedom helped my imagination run free. That is why my collections will always have a fantasy element to them.

When I moved back to Bahrain at the age of six, I loved the fact that we were living next to the sea. I also embraced the warmth of the people, the rich history, the sunshine, and the cuisine. These different aspects have shaped my sense of wonderment, my quest to create magical experiences and dynamic textures that weave all these elements together narratively.

When I moved to Europe, I was drawn to and inspired by the art and music around me. It gave me the determination to follow my instincts and be fearless by tapping into my imagination and enjoying every minute.

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MATAR AW’15 Collection

Inspired by contemporary arts and Italian cinema, what references and inspirations did you look to when creating your AW’15 collection?

For my AW15 collection, I was inspired by the acrobatic performances of the 1920s and 30s. Looking at old photos and posters of these acts such as Barnum and Bailey, these performers did not rely on special effects, they tempted fate and faced serious dangers for the sake of their art and public entertainment. They spent their life living on the high-wire. The slightest miscalculation or lapse of judgement could lead to injury or even death. Audiences gasped in awe, relief and bliss as they watched every performance as if it were the last.

You have a love for textiles, what is your process in terms of sourcing materials and combining different tactile styles?

One of my favorite aspects of the whole design process is experimenting with different materials, creating unusual textures and working with interesting fabrics. For example, my AW14 collection was an exploration of the ravaging effects of natural disasters, the chaos and instability caused. I searched for rich textiles that captured the rich terrain of the earth and resemble lava formations, patches of grass and lava flows. Recently the fabrics have become the point of departure for the collections. I love going to fabric trade shows, that’s where I will get lost happily.

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Exclusive jacquard collection for EXPO MILANO 2015 by MATAR

As a young designer it must be a great privilege to represent Bahrain’s fashion industry at EXPO MILANO 2015, how did this come about and did you have any specific intentions with your creative contribution?

Being part of the team that represents Bahrain at the Milan Expo is such an honour and I have enjoyed the whole experience tremendously. I was approached by the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquity and was briefed on the Milan Expo and the pavilion design that was selected at the end. They have been very supportive and were one of the main sponsors for my SS15 collection. They wanted to showcase local talent in different fields and fashion happened to be one of them.

From the beginning, there was a clear vision to create an exclusive textile that would narrate Bahrain’s rich agricultural heritage and that would be the starting point for the collection’s development.

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Exclusive jacquard collection for EXPO MILANO 2015 by MATAR

The theme of the EXPO this year is ‘Feeding the planet, energy for life’, how have you interpreted the theme and incorporated this into your design of a bespoke jacquard?

The inspiration came from Bahrain’s agricultural heritage. By looking at old photos and drawings of Bahrain’s indigenous fruit and collaging the various elements, designs were hand-rendered, painted, and then digitised. The shapes were abstracted to produce organic formations, like a narrative tapestry, weaving all these different elements of Bahrain’s heritage into a dynamic and unique jacquard. The colour palette was also born from the rich colours of the fruit, using accents of pale golds, mid tones of mauve and cerulean blue with dark shades of burgundy, violet and navy.

I was committed to work with one of the leading textile manufacturers, Clerici Tessuto. So the designs were sent to them for fabrication and I asked them to create something tactile with 3D form.

As well as Bahrain’s agricultural heritage, inspiration was drawn form the pavilion’s architectural design. The pavilion’s inspiration from aerial land formations and landscape wove its way into the rhythmic motifs of the textiles. The curves and clean lines were abstracted and distorted to form and grow into an undulating 3D tapestry.

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MATAR AW’14 Collection

Your stockists are currently in the US and Europe, do you feel when you finally expand to the Middle East you might have to alter your designs to suit a possibly more conservative customer?

Many women in the Middle East are daring and open when it comes to what they wear. However, I think it’s important to respect cultures in general and embrace them and I have no problems altering certain designs if requested, as long as I don’t feel like I am compromising my vision.

Do you believe there is a stereotype in the industry of how Arabic women are considered to dress?

I think the stereotype exists to a certain extent, but it is diminishing as people are becoming more connected, are learning more about other cultures, and are expressing themselves more. I think there is such diversity in how Arab women dress within each country and across the region that shows their commitment to feeling unique and empowered.

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MATAR AW’15 Collection

Opportunities like the Style.com/Arabia-Dubai Design & Fashion Council Fashion Prize are great opportunities to develop the fashion industry of the Middle East as it is a major emerging market. What are your views towards the dilemma of a market that has many Western-inspired developments but still needs to maintain its own unique creative voice?

I don’t see the dilemma: I think creating platforms like these is increasingly important in nurturing young talented designers to build their visions and sustain themselves in this highly competitive industry. Drawing from the success of similar platforms in the West can be of tremendous insight. However, these platforms will be home-grown, adhering to the culture and heritage of the region.

Will you be entering the competition?

Yes, I have applied for it and I am really happy to know that there is a strong local support system that is developing in the region.

What hopes do you have for the future of your brand?

I hope to work on more inspiring commissions, collaborate with my sister on more film projects, launch an exclusive jewellery collection in the next year and see the brand grow and expand.

Designer Hind Matar
Designer Hind Matar

What are your simple pleasures?

I love spending time with my sisters, watching old Disney cartoons and films, going to art exhibitions and dancing with friends on the weekend and being silly.

All imagery courtesy of Hind Matar
www.hindmatar.co.uk@M_A_T_A_R / @matarstudio
INTERVIEW: Alex Petsetakis

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