Matthew Williamson is no fashion snob: The designer talks affordable style and the death of trends

We sit down with British designer Matthew Williamson to talk the future of fashion

If there’s one word that springs to mind when the name Matthew Williamson is heard, it’s prints. The 45-year-old designer is renowned for his use of bold, bright and boho chic designs and believes every woman should own a patterned garment that oozes character and personality; ‘Something that sets you aside from everyone else and ensures all eyes are on you,’ he explains, when we met to discuss his latest venture.

The Manchester-born designer’s latest venture isn’t a new Debenhams collection, or a home furnishings range. Instead, Williamson has lent his name and artistic skills  (his own painting is used) to NIVEA to create a limited edition Black & White deodorant.

“It’s been a lovely, simple project,” says Williamson. “It’s a brand that I’ve become so familiar over the years. That iconic blue tin with the white logo – it reminds me so strongly of my mother, a NIVEA consumer. I also love the idea of my work diversifying and being used in different ways beyond fashion.”

Williamson is renowned for his prints – and often draws on nature
The design on the NIVEA product was painted by Matthew Williamson himself

Of course it’s Williamson’s fashion that he’s most recognised for. He may’ve removed himself from the London Fashion Week schedule two years back, but that’s not to say Williamson isn’t still a top dog within the British fashion industry.

He never struggles to get A-listers to be seen in his wares: Sienna Miller’s a long-time fan, as is Fearne Cotton, Nicole Scherzinger and Ellie Goulding. Hollywood stars such as Laura Dern and Lindsay Lohan have stepped out in his designs in the past, too.

But his best win has to belong to the Duchess of Cambridge. Kate has worn both a dove grey crepe shift and a double breasted wool coat from the brand.

The Duchess of Cambridge wears Matthew Williamson in November 2015 [Photo: PA]

Williamson’s dabbled in menswear but his true love remains womenswear. He tells us he loves dressing women and helping them feel the best they can – a passion that goes back to his childhood, when he would watch his mother pick out her outfits.

‘My mum was a big influence, a huge lover of looking good and making the best of herself. I was fascinated with her ritual of getting ready. That was really why I started out in fashion. I love the notion of helping women feel great about themselves through their clothes.’

But his clothes are expensive. An evening gown will set you back around £1,400 – a steep sum that most women simply can’t afford, even if they love the label. Which is why Williamson’s Debenhams collection has always been so well received.

The designer is determined not to be a fashion snob. A price tag shouldn’t be a blocker, says Williamson, which is why he teamed up with the high street department store 15 years ago – and continues his collaborative effort today.

“I’m a really down-to-earth designer. I think you can have good design at different price points. This has been a great collaboration that’s worked for many years. The process is the same, it’s just a different price point.”

Williamson has designer a limited edition NIVEA deodorant as his first venture into the world of beauty

It’s not just Williamson’s understanding of affordability that sets him aside from other designers. He understands that trends are becoming less and less important – a movement that Williamson attributes to social media.

“People are becoming their own editors and curating their own stories on Instagram of what they’re interested in,” he explains. “They’re making the trends rather than fashion magazines and designers telling them what to wear. That’s where we’re going.”

So, what’s next for Matthew Williamson? While his love of fashion continues to burn, he’s focusing more intently on interiors and recently decorated a hotel in New York.

“Interiors has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember,” he tells us. “I loved painting my room as a little boy. So that’s where I’m moving to now, that idea of – whether it be a hotel room, or a range of wallpaper or furnishing, it’s all part of the same world for me.”

Matthew Williamson’s Limited Edition NIVEA Black & White deodorant is available from August 15 at Boots, Superdrug and other major retailers. 

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