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arizona meets her muse: matthew williamson

Arizona, the beautiful one with the beautiful name, has been muse to many a photographer, designer, artist, boy, girl, anyone really who's been lucky enough to come into contact with her charming self. She's as smart and well-mannered as she is pretty, so in our series "Arizona meets her muse," we turn the tables and she interviews the photographers, designers, artists, boys, girls, anyone really who she's felt lucky to have come into contact with! Today she chats love, secrets and Estée girls with designer Matthew Williamson.

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Walking into my dear friend Matthew's London flat is like entering a magic little world. He artfully combines bold and bright colours with soothing earthy tones, reminiscent of a jungle, just as he does with his designs in fashion. His home is a reflection of himself: kind, thoughtful, but mixed with a sense of fun and laughter! 

Arizona: What is your favourite colour?
Matthew: Funny actually, I was buying a lamp in Manchester the other day in this antique shop and it was green and the shop owner said to me, “you love green, don’t you?” And I was like, “how do you know that?” and he’d been on my Instagram account and most pictures I take are this particular shade of green and I looked down at my outfit and my pants were green, my T-shirt was green and my cardigan was green! But is has to be the right green, that Eau-de-Nil green. I love mixing cold and hot, I remember at school the teacher explaining about the colour wheel – how half of it is cold, and half of it is hot – and if you draw a line from this colour to that colour you get a complementary contrast. 

Arizona: You’re so good at describing all of this.
Matthew: When you’re getting dressed it’s useful, not that either of us are doing this today with our all blacks, but if you wear a coral shirt with a navy pant, that - in theory - is perfect.

Arizona: A perfect contrast.
Matthew: And again that mint green, I love mixing that with hot pink. 

Arizona: That sounds really beautiful. You’re really good at that, all of your clothes show it, and now I see that your house shows that to. You have such an eye for colour. And a lot of them are really muted colours, mixed in with a little vein of hotness. 
Matthew: Exactly, that’s well described. I used to live in a neon house, every room was fluorescent. But my palette has refined with age, and it has got that aged quality. I love mixing colours, it's thefavourite part of my job, just working on the palette.

Arizona: One thing you like about yourself and one thing you don’t?
Matthew: The first thing that comes to my mind is my sense of humour.

Arizona: It’s very good, very quick.
Matthew: I think I’ve got a northern, down-to-earth, sense of humour. I do tend to see the funny side whenever I can, and I love making people laugh.

Arizona: That way of connecting with people is really nice.
Matthew: Yeah. Once I know that people are receptive to my sense of humour I never shut up, then I’m on a roll, I think that I’m on a stage. What don’t I like about myself? Plenty I suppose. I guess that feeling, it’s the double edge sword of having such ambition, and drive, and motivation, it’s sort of inbuilt in my childhood, that work ethic that my parents instilled in me. But the flip side of having that passion and drive, is that nothing is ever good enough. I’m always...

Arizona: Seeking that extra bit?
Matthew:  Work is so important to me, it never stops. So I don’t have that switch in me that goes "right it’s Saturday, I’m off." I’m working as you can see.

Arizona: Through your eyes what is your gift/talent?
Matthew: Well the most obvious answer would be that what I do or my idea of creating which has become a niche global business that people appreciate. I guess that’s a talent.

Arizona: I would say also the way you see colour, and the way you entwine things that are beautiful together. You’re very skilled with that, your clothes - there’s a lot going on with them, a lot of embellishment, a lot of embroidery, feathers, many different colours, but it’s perfect. It’s not too much and yet it’s a statement.
Matthew: What you’re saying is where I think the answer lies. I’m my own worst critic and I never feel like I’m good enough in my eyes. But conversely my talent or my understanding of that talent - whether I think it’s good or not - goes beyond the designing, beyond the studio work, beyond the fittings and the show. There’s that sense when you meet someone, maybe it’s some random person on the street who taps you on the shoulder and goes "I’ve got one of your dresses and when I wear it women hate me and men love me, it’s fabulous!’’ It happens a lot and it really does put it into perspective that, outside the industry, whether it’s your accolades or your critics, my real pleasure comes from knowing that someone has over a thousand brands to buy from and this woman has picked one of my pieces and spent money on it, and to some small degree she feels better. 

Arizona: Are you scared of the dark?
Matthew: I’m not scared of the dark. 

Arizona: Are you in love? When have you felt the deepest love?
Matthew: I’m definitely not in love at the moment, regrettably. I feel like I’ve had one true love in my life, which is Joseph, who you know. He says “hi,” by the way! 

Arizona: Tell him I say “hi,” and I send him my love, probably not my deepest, truest love as you do though!
Matthew: He was my partner for 13 years. We set the business up together. We met in our very early 20s and had a really lovely relationship and he remains my best friend – soulmate – whatever you want to call it. We split up in a really positive way. It was kind of like, the bits that aren’t working here we can work on them and still maintain what we have. We preserved that friendship into our 40s and I think I’ll know him until the end. I think that’s probably why I’m not with someone now - because I’ve got this kind of history. He’s not easy shoes to fill.

Arizona: It’s beautiful to have that. What’s an uncomfortable conversation topic for you?
Matthew: Nothing springs to mind, I’m up for a challenge.

Arizona: I think if I were at dinner with you, you’d be the one who’s comfortable talking about sex, talking about the past, talking about your feelings…
Matthew: Absolutely, I’m an open book. I don’t really harbour any dark secrets – on the record! No, I think it would be something I know nothing about.

Arizona: For me it would be politics.
Matthew: Yeah, if you’re sat next to some guy banging on about the war, I wouldn’t know enough, you know. But I’d probably throw in my comedic sense and turn it round into something I did know about.

Arizona: So what colour is his tie?!
Matthew: Exactly! Hmm, they have great outfits! Saved by the bell, my Ocado’s arrived.

@ArizonaMuse

matthewwilliamson.com