MANY DREAM OF BEING IN FASHION — few act on that dream, and even less succeed.
Matthew Gideon is making his way there. Having spent the bulk of his childhood hanging out at his grandparents’ grocery store, the 27-year-old wasn’t always clued in on the ways of the fashion world. But he always knew how he wanted certain things to look. This was a boy who was picky about what he wore, and he wore what he did with panache.
The search for a perfect hoodie in his teenage years led him to create his first piece. Having thoroughly enjoyed the process, from designing and sourcing materials to seeking out the tailors, he enrolled into a three-month crash course at the Textile and Fashion Industry Training Centre right after National Service. “I wanted to dip my toes in and see if it was something I could handle,” he recalls.
The software engineering polytechnic graduate has no regrets skipping university for fashion. Now, he is the proud owner of Deboneire, a three-year-old menswear label that melds classical sensibilities with a fashion-forward approach. Meaning “of good lineage” in French, the brand focuses on dressy evening wear for the discerning gentleman. His clientele — mostly in their 20s to 40s — includes Nathan Hartono and Keagan Kang, to name a few.
Velvet, bold patterns and jacquard weaves are often employed in the construction of the suits, designed by Gideon and made in France, Italy, Japan or China. Apart from their ready-to-wear collection, a bespoke service is also available. His designs are one of a kind, but the “Deboneire man” is, after all, a maverick who knows what he wants and doesn’t conform to the norm. Here, we chat with him further about about style, authenticity and what’s killing it.
Miuccia Prada once said that originality is no longer relevant. Do you think authenticity is possible in fashion?
It depends on how one person defines it. My designs are a product of my experiences, my perspective, my story. To me, that makes my designs authentic, no matter the inspiration.
How do you stay authentic?
My designs are very classic, but I take ideas from multiple sources — be it a tailor, an avant-garde artist or interior designer — and blend them together. I like to see what’s out there, what’s being made and what people like.
What do you think is killing originality and cheapening the fashion industry?
Some of the biggest fashion businesses today are based entirely on designer knock-offs. Yet fast fashion isn’t just killing creativity — it is also killing the earth. The high street brands may claim to be sustainable, but when you’re producing at such massive volumes, it is inevitable that plenty of waste will be generated.
Are you conscious of your business’ impact on the environment?
For sure. Everything that we make is made to order. For our ready-to-wear collection, we produce only one or two pieces for each design. Subsequent pieces are only produced on order, and this goes right down to the manufacturing of the fabric.
It is also very important for me to visit the factories across the entire supply chain and assess their work environment and processes. During my time at the Textile and Fashion Industry Training Centre, we were taught to look out for the key things when auditing a manufacturing plant. You need to know their procedures right down to the finest detail.
There’s a story behind every piece that you create. Name one story behind the piece you’re proudest of.
Hmm, that’s difficult. I am proud of everything (laughs). But out of the current SS18 collection, there is a cropped turquoise dressing gown that was inspired by a trip to the Hotel Costes in Paris, designed by interior designer Jacques Garcia who is a big source of inspiration for me. While I was lounging around, I imagined what I would wear in a place so opulent. I wanted something relaxed, with Hugh Hefner vibes, but instead of having it long and fussy, I cropped it. It’s really a lightweight, unlined robe that falls to just below the hips. I wore it down the runway at the Singapore Fashion Week.
How does fashion differ from style?
Fashion stems from trends. Style is something that comes from within. As a teenager, I was into punk rock and would chase after trends, but I stopped, realising that I don’t want to look back and say, “what was I thinking?”
As a local brand, do you feel the need to create a Singaporean identity?
What is the Singaporean identity? I think it’s up to us to define. We are a melting pot of various cultures, but you won’t find my designs influenced by any particular ethnicity. It’s quite culturally neutral.
What was the best advice ever given to you?
I am very grateful to my good friend Chelsea Scott-Blackhall, the founder and designer of local label Dzojchen. She taught me how important it is to stand my ground and chase my perspective of creativity. She taught me to maintain my brand ethos, to maintain my authenticity and to never compromise, even just to profit.