Hand woven fabrics and menswear drapery: Matorosari

By Kabyashree Saikia

An Asian designer who was told she would never make it in the industry for not having 10k followers on instagram - Matorosari gives us an insight into the harmful affect of fast fashion in the the society and how her strict upbringing gave her the opportunity to experiment and follow her artistic passion. 

Image Courtesy: Matorosari

Image Courtesy: Matorosari

As we sat at the Aubain restaurantin Dover Street, awaiting our drinks and pondering over the food menu, Matorosari hesitantly opted for a burger. “I think I’ll have the burger but it’ll be really messy. Mess everywhere… yeah, I might just go for the burger.” She said, laughing at her indecisiveness.

The Philippines born designer and graduate from Middlesex University, Matorosari is an artist and fashion enthusiast, who believes in sustainable fashion. “It is so hurtful towards the planet. Fast fashion teaches us how to be greedy a lot of the time. To never be satisfied. I think since I was young, I have always recycled my clothes, so its just how my mentality is now.”

Dressed in all black, as the designer spoke about her strong belief in artisanal fashion, she seemed passionate and bold as she continued to explain the motto behind her brand’s ethics. There was a powerful aura that was being reflected through her words – a voice that led the youth to a society where the existence of unethical fashion will be diminished. “We need to learn how to utilize clothing. I’m very into sustainability. It gives a perspective to my designs. The world would be a better place if we stopped wasting everything.”

We discovered Matorosari through Not Just A Label, and immediately the FTS team was fascinated by the menswear draping and structural designs. There was volume and carefully constructed silhouettes, which is not a common scene in the menswear industry. “You can get away with a lot in womenswear. You can drape how you want, there are so many shapes you can go for; but with menswear you have to really think about how you want the fabric to look like because it’s kind of like a flat body, but then fabric does completely different things. I mean you can get away more on womenswear than menswear, when it comes to draping. When you try draping on men’s you have to be very careful with it.”

As we finally decided on our food choices and finished ordering, Matorosari took us further on a journey through her past, present and with a little insight onto her future throughout the interview.

I think you can’t label yourself as 100% something. Yeah I’m feminine, but I have these masculine traits too. No one is completely man or women. If gender doesn’t exist what is the world going to be like?

FTS: Tell us a little more about your Asian upbringing.

Matorosari: My upbringing was very strict. They were very worried about me. “Oh you want to do art, you want to do fashion? How are you going to do this? You should really opt for a safer job. Do something like medical or in finance.” I thought I’d be miserable for the rest of my life if I do something like that. That’s horrible! They weren’t very happy with me, but they’ve come to recognise, yeah, she’s happy doing what she loves. It’s a very high-intense job and it’s really stressful, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

FTS: It seems like you came from an academic background. How did you end up getting into fashion?

Matorosari: So, up until college when I moved here, I had a choice to do either art or academics and I remember during my final year in high school in the Philippines I decided I really wanted to do art.
Art was a hobby of mine for years. So, when I went to college, I was like, “Alright lets jump in this and see what happens.”  In college, I wasn’t actually doing fashion. I did fine art. I was an artist so I painted a lot; I did a lot of sculptures and drawings. Then it slowly went into fashion during my experimental phase. I thought, “How do I express myself?” That’s where it slowly transitioned into fashion and now I’m here just doing menswear.

Image Courtesy: Matorosari

Image Courtesy: Matorosari

FTS: So are you only working on your brand at the moment or is there anything else on the side like a part time job or something?

Matorosari: I’m working in womenswear too at the moment for an independent designer Liam Lloyd London. She just came out as an emerging designer. She graduated about three years ago and had a very big gap in her career. After a while, she wanted to come back in and that’s why I kind of got the job with her, to lead her pattern-cutting department. I pattern cut for her and I kind of help with production as well. All the sewing, the running and all of that – I’m a part of that. Recently, I’ve been promoted to the position of a studio manager. So, I manage the whole studio too now.

FTS: Tell us a little about your recent collection – the graduate collection.

M: So for my graduate collection, I decided to minimalize the colour and utilised what I could do with surface pattern. It’s so easy to make something so eye-catching due to colour. So how do you make something eye catching with a very, very plain colour? Not like a red or orange.
I started designing the woven fabric and stuck with blue, grey and black and that was it. To me, there is a lot more to it than just blue. There are so many different shades. Literally just concentrated on detailing and it really made me think about, “How can I make this look good without colour distraction?” That’s how I used shapes on shirts and unconventional fabrics that are semi-shiny to add a bit more movement and flow to it, but not so feminine that it’s almost a dress. I really love wool. So, most of the trousers I’ve made are out of wool. Then combining tailoring with draping and changing the shapes, with tailored drop crotch trousers and adding pleats, giving the leg some movement without it scrunching up too much and moving down. There is a lot of thought into the detail and what it can actually do. My weaving technique was completely different. It was also very difficult because woven fabrics are very heavy. The coat itself was a few kilos heavy. The kimono was very, very heavy. I had to weave forty metres of fabric, just to make the collection by hand. It took me two months to produce the fabric itself for just two of the coats. I used a lot of Italian premium cotton, which is very fine – like hair thin. I had to layer this six times to get that puffy effect. It was a lot of work into it!


FTS: It seems like lot of your work is done with hand-woven fabrics. Do you think coming from Philippines that has an impact on your work?

Matorosari: I didn’t really think about weaving until later in my career. After art, I was determined “I’m going to do fashion. I’m not going to do anything else, just fashion.” I kind of wanted to express my artistic side and thought, “Maybe there are other options to do this?” and somehow, I found myself into weaving. The technique of weaving is definitely celebrated a lot in the Philippines. If you’re from a tribe and you’re still a weaver, it’s a good thing you know? It was a very celebrated career, dating back. At the moment though, its different, because they don’t see it as that important anymore. You have manufactured fabric now. No one seems to care about traditional weaving and it’s dying out slowly. It’s a very niche market – very small. However, at times during the years that I’ve been active it is getting more and more recognised and I’m very happy about that. I think we need to bring back more character to clothing more than practicality sometimes. It’s quite nice to have something different.

Image Courtesy: Matorosari

Image Courtesy: Matorosari


FTS: Where did you get your main inspiration?

Matorosari: The inspiration for it was HR Giger. He is a great artist! He did most of the art for Aliens. I’m a little bit of a fan of Sci-Fi.  I really enjoyed how he created texture in his illustrations and paintings. How he used airbrushing and he passed away during my study – I was so upset. I tried to translate one of his illustrations into some of my woven fabric and there was so much detail in this piece of his. Maybe in the future, I’ll go back to it and reproduce it or make another collection out of it. I’m still in that process of finding myself in menswear and finding myself as a weaver.

FTS: Were you inspired when you came to London by the architecture?

Matorosari: Yeah, definitely. I go around a lot of cities a lot. I really enjoy bath spa because they have so many old architecture still there. I went on a trip to the seaside and saw more. There are so many big buildings in London. I think I’m so interested in the culture here and that reflects in my work. That’s probably why it’s very Eurocentric.


FTS: Any designers who inspire you? You mentioned artists before

Matorosari: Everyone thinks, “You must be inspired a lot.” But architecture and artists inspire me mostly. I get shapes from architecture than clothing that is already there. I don’t sit there looking at designers all the time. Although, I would say Yojhi, he does a lot of oversized, that I do. I recently, saw his daughter had a collection and that was great. I like to support new and local designers. I go to conferences and stuff like that. I like looking at new people’s work quite often.


FTS: Yohji does a lot of androgynous work, and in your art the gender fluid aspect is quite evident. What do you have to say about there being not much difference between womenswear and menswear?

Matorosari: I think it’s great to have both sides, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all be open to each other. I think it struggles to have a line here, there are so many rules about how you make clothing. How a women’s shirt is made compared to a man’s? Where the zips are? How the pockets are completely different? In womenswear, the pockets are never that deep! Like, girls want to carry stuff too you know? Menswear can’t have too many drapes or use too feminine fabric. It has to be this very masculine, very robust. I think you’re made to think that you can’t wear certain things. I think you can’t label yourself as 100% something. Yeah I’m feminine, but I have these masculine traits too. No one is completely man or women. If gender doesn’t exist what is the world going to be like?




Kabyashree Saikia