We speak to Matthew Linde of Centre For Style about curating fashion outside of the museum and creating one of fashion's uniquest ventures.
This summer Matthew Linde took his Melbourne-based fashion store and exhibition space Centre For Style on a coast-to-coast tour of the United States, hosting one-night events in New York and Los Angeles. I turned up to the latter slightly late to find him still installing sculptures in the Chin's Push project space, and awaiting late-coming exhibitors. In the garden a couple of girls were dressing up in ceremonial-looking brown tunics by Australian design duo HB Peace. In the living room were installations from the Centre's other house staples - Rare Candy and D&K, both also from Melbourne, and Anna-Sophie Berger from Vienna - alongside contributions from local artists like Marcel Alcalá; who was painted yellow. Playing the part of a blind rapper and watched over by a bored black-and-white cat on top of a garden shed, his surprisingly excellent performance climaxed in the ritualistic burning of a Louis Vuitton bag on a bonfire.
Since its founding two years ago, Centre For Style has acted as a wholly independent champion for experimental clothing and art practises the world over. It has an underground DIY ethos and aesthetic, and a weirdness that is rarely seen in the fashion world today, as well as strong ties to the art community. With its own space, its off-site projects, and its publications Centre For Style is becoming an increasingly influential entity, so I asked Matthew to explain everything.
Centre For Style appears somewhat like an artist-run space, but with fashion, which is an unusual idea for me.
I think your perception is pretty accurate. In Melbourne commercial galleries are few and far between, and we have - or we had, it's being decimated right now because we are echoing the austerity measures of your government - a really good state funding for the arts, which allowed people like me to get grants and self-initiate.
What inspired it?
You know Wendy Yao? I was with her just now, and she runs a space called Ooga Booga, selling art, books, clothing, and music in Los Angeles. When I was growing up she was working in this lo-fi way, bringing in artists from different fields, so there was music but there was also fashion, and for me that was a huge precedent.
Then there's Olivier Saillard, who is a fashion curator in Paris, he has done some amazing projects. Especially when you are dealing with more historic garments, which have condition reports, it's the same as with art, you can't really do much with them in terms of installation or performance. But he did this amazing show [The Impossible Wardrobe, 2012] at the Palais de Tokyo with Tilda Swinton; she was wearing this professional, chemically-balanced garb with the gloves, and holding these amazing 17th-century garments just next to her body, and so they masqueraded as being worn. Usually you only ever saw these garments in these really boring, didactic exhibitions, and I thought this was a really imaginative and intelligent approach in activating them.
And RA in Antwerp although they're closed now unfortunately. But RA was fantastic because it was completely compelled to only stock graduating work, and - if we are going to be homogenising - while an artist develops their oeuvre and gets better and better, the designer typically works the opposite way. It's like their best work is their graduate collection, and as they conform to the industry it gets more and more diffused. RA was so great because it had so many of those Antwerp graduate looks in the store.
The form of a one-night only fashion event - that's not a show or a presentation or a party - is a new one for me. Why are you so interested in it?
Well my whole life is like wanting to learn more about fashion and art, and I wasn't good as a designer but I was attracted to designing because it seemed to engage a community. People like Eckhaus Latta do that really well, and at some point Eckhaus Latta's clothes are inconsequential, and instead it's about, 'How do I get people to DJ and get people to shoot?' and it becomes about this community, and for me that was the power of fashion - how it creates communities.
I think the fashion exhibition format is still in its amoeba stages, so I want to be there to kind of like shape a scene, or shape an understanding of what it could be. I am doing my PhD in this, so that's my impetus.
Your PhD is about exhibiting fashion outside of museums?
Yes, because how we curate fashion inside a museum is really well defined at this point, we have a really strong history of it. But curating fashion outside of the museum is really active at the moment, in the past ten years, insofar that fashion students sometimes opt for an exhibition mode over a runway presentation.
With museums that's one way of accessing work, and that's not a way that interests me that much. But you've witnessed what happened tonight, some of the artists hadn't even brought their work by the time the event began, and that type of vivacity or ad hoc approach is just not allowed in the museum context.
But also, I think it's politically egregious that we access culture funded through these 'philanthropists' and corporations who donate to museums, so there is also an anti-capitalist rhetoric.
Why do you think there has been this recent trend for high-end collaborations between fashion designers and artists; for instance Prada opening its museum, or Riccardo Tisci working with Marina Abramovic?
It is luxury - and I think to say 'art' and 'fashion' is side-stepping the issue - I mean it's just luxury, that's what their shared goal is. Isabelle Graw writes about this with much more veracity than I could repeat to you, talking about the collusion between both industries, but also other industries like film, and how they are all wrapped up in extremely capitalist hands. For me there is actually nothing explicit going on between these collaborations. Like people talk about, 'Oh fashion is entering more of like an art phase,' or, 'Art is a form of...' I mean, whatever, it's just that everything is entering a hyper-advanced capitalist form and they are in a shared system.
Text Dean Kissick
Photography courtesy Centre For Style