centre for style is a messy fashion utopia
Part retail space, part gallery, Centre for Style is both a challenge and a joy to explore. i-D meets creator Matthew Linde to talk Tumblr, an upcoming book and staging shows in Airbnbs.
Rare Candy at Centre for Style
When Matthew Linde began studying fashion, he confesses that he 'didn't even know how to sew a straight line.' Years later, he's completing a PhD on the subject, while asking a very complex question: how do we curate fashion outside of the museum? To answer this, Matthew's created a space - part gallery, part retailer- named Centre for Style. The Centre engages an approach to fashion that's more concerned with experiences than products. Be it in their own spaces, by invitation at another gallery or just online, the Centre conducts challenging experiments with fashion. It is at once an extension of Matthew - a part of his personal academic practice - and an entity of its own. Ahead of the Centre's upcoming venture to America, we sat down with Matthew to talk emo phases, an upcoming book release and what Centre for Style is all about.
i-D: I'm really fascinated by the space that Centre for Style (CfS) occupies, somewhere between a gallery and a retailer. How would you describe it?
Matthew Linde: Centre for Style is a store and exhibition space to showcase contemporary fashion practice. We use the term fashion practice because it's a bit more nebulous, it reaches out to artists who aren't at all designers per-se, but they're dealing with a borrowed language from fashion. CfS looks at how fashion enters a messy cultural zone. We know by now what fashion looks like in a museum, there's been the typified blockbuster fashion exhibitions for well over 50 years. How fashion can function outside of the museum is still fertile ground to nut out.
It's interesting that you brought up working with artists outside of fashion, because I've seen a lot of musicians perform at CfS, like KT Spit, who i-D are big fans of.
Music is a great way to access fashion. The show KT Spit was involved in was called Sensation. There's a performative element to musicians, beyond the stage, in the way they enter celebrity culture. They're then marketed and their bodies become vessels for other devices, namely advertising. With Sensation, I wanted to turn that on its head and use that as the central premise for a show. It was all about the musician coming into the store and styling themselves with an outfit while playing in the space. Sensation was in some way revealing that process.
Tell me more about how CfS functions as a gallery. How do exhibitions cycle through the space?
I don't think we're a 'gallery' gallery. We don't have a regulated programme system. I think a large mission of CfS is to disrupt these channels of distinguishability. So, the very fact that we deal with music, poetry readings, zines, one-off shows... already there's this confused perspective in defining exactly our approach. Imagine Carrie Bradshaw at age 80.
How about Centre for Style's operation as a retail space? I image the online store would play a big role.
Yeah this is something I want to focus on more as so much of our time recently has been on curatorial activities. It's important that CfS doesn't lose its position in a retail context. I want to retain that lo-fi way of selling and accessing work. The minute it becomes mass-produced and commercialised it's failed. The online store has not been updated in 1.5 years, I'm so embarrassed.
So what kind of labels does CfS deal with, in a retail context?
Since we're not a commercial space, we don't represent people, but in terms of our local staples there's Rare Candy, H.B. Peace and D&K and then Anna-Sophie Berger who is not from Australia but has been such a great supporter from early on. H.B. Peace represent a nice paradigm for CfS in terms of retail. We've done three catwalk presentations together, which all sit at an awkward threshold between performance, contemplative objects and then worn garments. I just wrote about their new collection. I know they resist being called fashion designers, or being labeled, so in terms of going back to that notion of fluidity, they're a good poster child for CfS.
Tell me about the upcoming CfS shows in America.
I wanted to get the fuck out of Australia for my own sanity. I liked the idea of a band tour but instead doing it with an exhibition rather than music. We're doing this from NYC to LA and in domestic non-gallery spaces for just one-night. We've taken the four CfS staples over here while also including local artists from each respective city.
It feels like it's really born out of necessity.
We don't generate any money, nor do we have any 'staff'. CfS is a thirsty baby.
Where else can we expect to see CfS appearing next, maybe a little closer to home?
We're going to be working with 3-ply on publishing a Centre for Style book. 3-ply is a publishing company focused on artist books that's run by Fayen d'Evie. Together we're treating it as another sort of exhibition space in that CfS will be asking different artists to manufacture their own pages in the book. A lot of it will also be looking at how people create avatars or looks in their personal online spaces, as a form of fashion production.
So social media's a big part of your work, creatively?
Yeah Tumblr changed my life.
I think it's great to champion Tumblr.
Tumblr back then, in 2008/9, was like livejournal. There were lots of online places where naive adolescent artists could connect. I was also an emo before that in 2006 and Myspace was so instrumental with that. You remember being scene? It was really big in Brisbane where I'm originally from.
I remember scene.
Like the scene look, with the big hair, snakebites, fluid sexuality...
I'm actually going back into my emo phase in 2015.
Yeah I'm down. Myspace was really useful for scene groups, just like Tumblr was great for people who threw together weird outfits riffing off early 2000s Marc Jacobs then posting it next to old editorials. That was especially great about Tumblr, creating weird looks or styles that celebrated, paralleled or challenged the current ready-to-wear looks by using trash or just whatever you had in your wardrobe. Shout out here to largecoin and the impact that archivings has had on our fashion zeitgeist.
It feels like Instagram is the closest we've gotten to creating a gallery space to display these lifestyles as a form of artistic practice.
True. I mean that's an empowering and positive reflection. Obviously it's also wrapped in the ever exploiting post-fordist lifestyle labor the artist now participates in. I have five Instagram accounts and they're all crap, one day I'll master the look. Shout out to to babeydivorce.
Main Photograph Rare Candy at Centre for Style