It was Milan by way of Yorkshire on the final weekend of its fashion week as young British designer Matty Bovan showed his collection on the Italian schedule for the first time – thanks to the financial support of major label Dolce & Gabbana.
Design duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana contacted the York-based designer after seeing his work on Instagram, offering him use of their design team, access to their archive and financial backing to stage his spring/summer 2023 show in Italy.
Bovan reissued Dolce & Gabbana signatures, such as the corset and distressed denim, and subverted them with his trademark prismatic knitwear and hand-painted fabrics in his largest collection to date.
With most of the collection made in Yorkshire by local artisans, recycled sequins sourced from Manchester-based the Sustainable Sequin Company, and mirrored cone hats crafted by legendary milliner Stephen Jones driven from London to Italy, it was a show that took the best of British abroad.
“It’s a natural way for me to be working,” said Bovan before the show. “I like to give the clothes energy and soul. They can’t be dead [or] factory produced. They have to have life.”
But it was also about financial incentives. With the simplest of fashion shows starting around the £20,000 mark, it’s no secret that small brands like Bovan’s need financial help to stage something on such an impactful scale.
“It’s amazing a company like this is giving someone like me this to play with. It’s rare to be given carte blanche by anyone … and it’s very important to me,” he said. “It’s been interesting for us to have a bigger scope because it’s a really different way for us to operate.”
For Dolce & Gabbana, the collaboration is mutually beneficial. This marks the second time this year that it has supported a popular burgeoning brand’s show in Milan (the first was in February with the South Korean designer Miss Sooey). It forms a number of ongoing initiatives that the brand is no doubt hoping will help repair its reputation following accusations of racism and homophobia, which led to calls of a boycott of the brand by prominent gay men in the fashion and music industries, including Elton John. The designers, who later apologised, were not available to comment about their collaboration with Bovan on Sunday.
The British designer says there is no agenda. “I had no doubts when they asked me, I had no issue at all,” he says. “D&G is not a brand that people would put me with but it’s actually been a really successful pairing in the way that I’ve been able to put a spin on it.”
Bovan is one of an increasing number of young British designers attracting the support of established brands who by virtue of association increase their cultural cachet. On Saturday, his fellow alumni from talent incubator Fashion East Maximilian Davis made his directorial debut at Ferragamo. Last week, French house Nina Ricci appointed rising star Harris Reed as creative director.
Bovan’s show came a day after Dolce & Gabbana made headlines for inviting Kim Kardashian to curate their own catwalk show. The reality TV star mined the archives from 1987 to 2007 with a number of pieces from the brand’s cult heyday being reissued for the occasion.