Label Of Love
I recently took my first trip as a queer adult to Provincetown—aka the eastern and gayest-most point of Cape Cod, MA. I came for the calm coastline, the beautiful queens and cute B&Bs—not really the clothes. I knew Commerical Street had shops, but was expecting to find more Tom of Finland porn in antique stores than good fashion boutiques. Turns out, I got some illustrated dick AND inspired design! In the back of a well-curated streetwear shop B. Xclusive I met young and fancy free designer Matthew Donnelly working on his line Love Matters.
Matthew is a slender, effervescent blonde diva who works his cut offs OUT. I was drawn into his workspace by the brightness of the window backlighting his sketches and the melee of fabric bolts becoming garments, piece by piece. The Love Matters aesthetic is overtly constructed and hand-crafted without being arts-and-crafts. What I loved most was the mix of fabrics—particularly Matthew’s use of recycled leather embellishments. The toughness and luxeness of leather lent itself perfectly to free spirited femininity of Matthew’s clothes.
(vest with vintage leather and denim)
Being a broke ass aka another “up and coming” bitch, I went to PTown before peak season so I could afford a nice room at a bougie bed and breakfast spot. I was really curious what it was like being a young designer in a seasonal tourist town. Even during the summer months, Matthew is working in a locale known more for leather harnesses than leather trim. Add that to the ordinary stressors of launching a line like affording materials and staff and workspace and building a client base, and it can seem from the outside to be pretty impossible odds. But there he was sewing and busting his ass and making beautiful things. Matthew showed me the cuts and calluses of doing leatherwork by hand, and counted up all the hours it took to make his in progress pieces. If he was starved for glamour, I couldn’t tell. He is optimistic, talented, and his clothes are selling well in a boutique down the street from his workspace.
I interviewed Matthew after he wrapped the photo shoot for his most recent collection to learn more about the process, vision, and attitude behind Love Matters (<3M).
(embroidered phases of the moon mesh tanks, with corresponding constellations on the back with jewels and vintage leather)
MoH: Can you describe what production is like in the back of a boutique?
<3M: This experience has been awesome! I moved into the shop B.Xclusive for the winter because the owner signed up to be my seamstress, so it allowed us to work and keep the shop operable in the off-season. We sew all day and let people come in and shop and see us at work on my line. It feels like an homage to Provincetown arts history. I have a budget for the season, and what I’ve produced so far has been about double that. We keep track of our hours so each piece is priced based on fabric and labor costs. Every style is different and is a discovery. I need to stay true to the process and not cap it in advance financially. The brand is also being constructed as the garments are, and as I am as a human: slowly, but with diligence and patience and making sure that every aspect is put together in a way that is true to my brand, my message: Love Matters.
MoH: On your blog you say “I want my clothes to help you assume the power within you, use it and push it and tell the world because it IS glorious!” …I love that! What design elements do you incorporate that you believe help people feel powerful and glorious?
I like to use color—bold colors generally; sometimes in really friendly compliments like yellow and white and sometimes more dramatic with higher contrast like black and light pink. Wearing color requires commitment; a turquoise dress stands out, you know you’re in it the whole night and so you have to love it. When you’re wearing what you love it’s a reminder that you have something for yourself and it’s your favorite because YOU are your favorite.
I also like using raw edges giving the garments a rough texture, but on a classic shape generally emphasizing the hour-glass, like A-line skirts or super fitted ponti dresses. Right now I am using a lot of details with lines, really coloring in sections of the body so I apply these ideas to familiar, feminine shapes.
(dress with hand embroidered decals)
MoH: My favorite piece I saw was the leather and denim vest. What materials inspire you? Where do you get them? What about them speaks to you–and what do they hope those materials say to your customer?
<3M: I love everything! Silk to spandex! When selecting fabrics (which I generally get from suppliers in NY and LA) it’s one part color and one part feeling and just what it says. One leads to another. Right now I’ve got a lot of super comfy knits for everything and some sturdy but soft corduroys and denims with shiny silk or vintage leather accents. I only use recycled leather; it’s cheaper and extends and honors the spirit of the animal. I want people to think “that kicks ass- I could rock that” when they see my stuff, and then they DO and they love it.
MoH: What’s life like for a creative fashion spirit in PTown? What is the fashion culture of PTown and where do you fit into that—or not?
<3M: Life in Provincetown is beautiful. We have the ocean. Fashion comes for that. One aspect of Provincetown’s fashion culture is that it is a community. Many people have a shop, with a market, and every one fills a specific and worthy need. I’m one of many designers and clothing creatives here. I’m a clothing artist. People traveling like mementos that are practical, like clothing. The advantage of working in a retail space is I’m getting to know my customer personally, I’m not creating her. So her wants are my vision and my vision is her wants. I do not want to make or sell something that I would not feel good in. The twirl is important and so is the power ranger booty kick. That’s my place in Provincetown.
(close ups of moon/constellation tank)
MoH: As a fashion designer, what do you want to see more people wearing/doing/living in terms of personal style?
Eat right, take walks, swim, look at the ocean, read, and be honest about whatever they are feeling. Don’t worry about the 5lbs just wear it and have fun. Style does not have to be a costume or a cover- it can be- but it can be the amplification and the exposition of who we are- and we are crazy so we best enjoy it!
(photo from recent shoot by Rachel Harrington, modeled by Alicia)
Love Matters is not currently available on the internet, but visit Matthew’s blog and email him to inquire about his line and custom made pieces.