In an extract from his new monograph, Mitchell Oakley Smith reflects on two decades of Toni Maticevski’s work.

Louise Vandervorst wears MATICEVSKI silk taffeta, tulle and shredded silk organza dress embroidered with Matrix opal stones and sterling silver by Philip Cahun, fall/winter 2005.

Putting a book together about an individual designer is an interesting proposition, and something that is quite rare in Australia, given the youth of the industry. Toni Maticevski designs up to three main collections per year, but this doesn’t take into account the breadth of his artistic practice, which has, over the past fifteen years, featured numerous lines, commissions by private clients, a significant bridal business, children’s wear, and special projects with arts companies and museums. To distill this great expanse of work into merely 240 pages is, of course, a challenge. But in sifting through the designer’s back catalogue of work – whether through images of his fashion week presentations, pages collected from magazines, or his physical archive, with every individual garment he has ever created carefully stored away – certain common strands become immediately apparent, linking disparate collections and time periods in his career.

MATICEVSKI gown, resort 2017.

In reflecting the span of Mr Maticevski’s design practice, this book is not intended to serve as a chronological history of the designer’s creative output. Instead, it aims to showcase both the thematic concepts that inform his collections and the techniques and processes that underpin them. In doing so, insightful connections can be drawn between the collections and projects of the designer. This might be, for example, the sculptural quality of the designer’s work, achieved through his ongoing use of drape, as showcased in chapter one. Through his manipulation of cloth – incorporating techniques of folding and pleating, or of crafting his innovative silhouettes directly on the body – Mr Maticevski successfully creates new forms that challenge the traditions of female dress, and has thus earned him a reputation for creating wearable art akin to the masterpieces exhibited in art museums.

MATICEVSKI top, 2003, and skirt, fall/winter 2010.

Other chapters are less specific to a singular technique, such as that which explores the thematic play between dark and light in Mr Maticevski’s work. Here, the influences of Gothicism and religion, punk subculture and bondage are evidenced in the fabric choices, garment styles and finishes used in many of the designer’s collections. These references may at first seem obscure, yet Mr Maticevski has, throughout his career, managed to successfully avoid falling into the trap of designing to trends or clichés. While his garments are known to make the women that wear them feel feminine, their quality akin to traditional haute couture, the underlying artistic concepts ensure that the designs are elevated beyond polite notions of pretty to something altogether more beautiful. It is, after all, this approach that earned Mr Maticevski the moniker of ‘elegant rebel’.

Photography Jordan Graham | Styling Jolyon Mason
Maticevski: The Elegant Rebel, by Mitchell Oakley Smith, is published by Thames & Hudson.