Journal, Making

Heritage In Design: A Continuing Narrative


The purpose behind MATTER was never to be a fashion brand, and so we never subscribed to its trends and seasonality of launches. Our focus was on textiles and craft and so we work our model around artisan production, building a business that takes into account this inherent slowness, with season-less styles and seasonal fabrics. The change we want to impact can be broken down into three points of focus: artisans, designers, and customers.

Change beyond textiles is our mission and commitment to make rural artisan production sustainable, shift designers’ approach to their process, and inspire customers to value provenance. This is bigger than what we want to do with MATTER, it extends to a conversation that we want to continue; on the value of cultural heritage in textiles, the importance of people and process, the understanding of clothing production chain and larger environmental and social effects. To get the ball rolling, we asked our community to join in and lead our conversation to #ChangeBeyondTextiles.

Working with a curative philosophy inspired by tradition, we source heritage prints and styles while reinterpreting them in a modern manner. We believe that for artisanship to become sustainable, designers need to be in the picture. We chose MATTER as a brand name in large part because we wanted to create a collaborative company, and that’s what’s really exciting for us. We don’t have the vision of being a designer fashion label in the traditional sense, but a collaborative community that creates together towards the common purpose of furthering textile artisanship. We work with designers passionate about slow design and bringing the past into the present. Designers who, with their love for cultural heritage, storytelling, and the beauty of simple, intelligent design, collaborate with us across textile design, print reinterpretation and product shapes and styles.

A lot of our designs are inspired by what already exists, time-tested styles of pants, as well as heritage prints and motifs that have been used for centuries. Our philosophy is about creating connections between past and present, and not just creating something for the sake of originality. In the same manner, we wanted to pay tribute to the vibrant cultural heritage in our region by celebrating Asian styles and garments. To explain a little more, we asked two designers we’ve worked with, Yah-Leng and Lisanne to share about the intention and values behind their design process.

In our collaborations with Yah-Leng and her team at Foreign Design Policy Group, we created three limited edition scarves inspired by the Southeast Asian artworks displayed at the National Gallery Singapore. They also designed the Singapore print as part of the Then&There edition, the motif speaks of the sou-sou tile patterns in this island nation’s kopitiam coffeeshops, a hallmark of this melting pot of cultures. Whereas Lisanne, a freelance designer in Amsterdam, was integral to the start of MATTER and the pants we began with.

I really feel that this is a really important and monumental step that we have taken to come together to work on this project because it helps to extend the story and the tradition of the arts and crafts in the region — and it will bring a clearer picture and longer sort of longevity to the arts and crafts for the people who are not aware of it today.”

I have felt for a while that it’s really important to bring back the love into making a garment. Something you put on your body, something you wear, and the makers of what you wear are really important, and their stories are important and where it comes from is important, so I really love the emphasis that MATTER puts on this and the way it helps also to preserve these artisan communities that make these amazing lovely textiles.”


Listen in on the conversation to #ChangeBeyondTextiles and see what the rest of our community has to say about the journey. Read more on our journal here