a chat with lee roach and matthew miller

London Show Rooms in Hong Kong

Upon first examination, Lee Roach and Matthew Miller's collections appear to be wholly dissimilar, but upon talking to the designers, you get the sense that they are, in fact, trying to achieve very similar goals, but in two drastically different ways.  Both designers are what you might call "content-based" designers; everything they do is for a very specific reason.  For Lee, designing is about reducing everything to its finest detail and the process of refinement and construction; for Matthew, design is about identity and the process of destruction.  We had the opportunity to sit down with both of them while they were here for London SHOW Rooms Hong Kong 2012 to get a better idea of their approach to design and their philosophies behind their collections.

Models in Matthew Miller (left) and Lee Roach (right).

Minimal luxury from Lee Roach.

Lee Roach: I think, aesthetically, my work is very different from what is perceived as "the London aesthetic", but actually I think it's not necessary for people to look at designs and think about them specifically in terms of where they're from; it should be more about how it's made and the design itself.  A lot of what I'm about is reducing everything down to its finest detail and eliminating all superfluous components so that what you have is about the fabrication, construction and structure.  It's completely unlined and unstructured, so the pieces rely entirely on how they are cut.  The further you look into it, the more you find out about the garment.  That's a really important part of menswear, because men really care about the details, they care about how it's made, and with my designs, you can see all the details of how it's made and constructed; it's not hidden.  At the same time, it's very wearable.  The jackets, for example, they can be for evening but they can also be worn in the day.  For menswear, that's really important and it's a far more modern way to approach it, as well.  There are modern details, as well, in the fastenings and the lack of lapels, so that takes it away from  a "classic" men's jacket.

A modern way to do denim, by Lee Roach.

Lee Roach: This season, with the denim - it's a Japanese denim - and the idea was to use the material in a way that wasn't conventional.  Not doing a jean, but subverting the usual idea of denim.  There's also a white denim and we also have piece with a metallic foil treatment, which is all done by hand using heat.  Each piece is entirely unique.  There's a painterly quality, also, to the finish when you're up close, but from afar it almost looks like leather.  It was very important to find the right kind of denim and I really liked the idea of using cottons for summer, and the structure of denim was an interesting idea to play with.  I wanted to take it a step furter.  Also, from day one, I didn't want to use any buttons, so this is how the idea of the fastenings came about, and this idea can be applied to everything; our belts, our bags, it becomes a visual language in itself.  There's a soul to each piece and there's always a thought process behind it.  It's almost harder for me to just do something "simple".  

Matthew Miller, lost in existential thought?

Matthew Miller: My collection this season is industrial; it's about the real luxuries of life.  For me, celebrating the luxuries of life is about just "every day"; you know, just a walk.  The processes of life.  This collection is very based on processes.  For example, in the collection I've put in a process, so when you buy a T-shirt or a jumper, the user has to destroy a part of it, because once you've destroyed something, you then know how beautiful it is.  There's a series of pieces where you can tear things off and "destroy" it; you have to destroy the pocket, you have to destroy the print to make the pocket, and then you keep the part that you've destroyed as a part of the process.  There's also an element of health and safety in the ratchets.  Even the words that are etched into the shirts are from a health and safety manual.  My designs are about every detail; they all have to have a reason.  Every detail has purpose, otherwise it's pointless.

Destruction as design, by Matthew Miller.

Matthew Miller:  Choosing to design was really more about identity for me; your first impression of someone is based on what they're wearing and the way they present themselves.  With clothing you can change that, you can mask who you are or even be someone else on a day-to-day basis.  That's why I started.  I was really interested in my own identity, where I came from and where I was going.  I grew up on a council estate in Stoke-on-Trent and I got sent to quite a posh school, so my identity in this posh school was that I was the "rough person".  People were always expecting me to fight because of where I came from.  Straight away, I started to question people's perceptions of me and that made me question who I was, what I was going to achieve and what I was going to do.  That's how it all started; just about thinking, "Who am I?"  As things have gone on, it's gotten more and more philosophical and a lot deeper.  It's going to keep going that way, to be honest with you!  It's what I think about every day.  Designs should have a reason and a meaning, otherwise it's pointless and it has no right to be here.  I haven't figured it all out yet...once I've figured out life, I'll let you know!


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