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Matias Sandoval of MATiAS Denim – Exclusive Interview

Many brands these day play up their “heritage” as much as possible, how they revitalized some long forgotten production process or fabric to put the apparel industry back on the right track. Not so for Matias Sandoval of MATiAS Denim.

Self described as a “post-heritage brand”, Matias is more concerned about looking forward than looking back. His clothing plays with the ideas of fabric drape, pocket placement, and how clothing reflects the activities of everyday life.

We recently had the chance to pick through Matias’s ideas on denim history, the Southern California aesthetic, and what’s next for MATiAS jeans.

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RD: What does raw denim mean to you?

MS: Raw to me is a fabric that has been woven and treated (sanforized or not ). I dont think it necessarily needs to be a yarn dye(although it breaks down more interestingly), but the idea is that the garment is represented in this type of fabric (RAW) and then it begins a life of transformation for the individual wearer. I think there are also ways to ‘Wash’ or ‘Treat’ RAW DENIM that is unbenown to the end consumer but changes the way the garment is broken in, naturally overtime.

RD: What period represents the Golden Era of denim?

MS: I thought about this question a tremendous amount. First I thought of the middle to the end of the nineteenth century with the invention of “blue jean” and the rivet..which changed everything.

However, I think we are nearly living in the Golden Era of Denim and I think its becoming more interesting every season with the technological advances made in fabric manufacturing, wash techniques, different dyes, yarn compositions and of course fashion. Its also amazing how well this industry has held onto ITS HERiTAGE. But I think the true Golden Era for denim has yet to come!

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RD: You used to work as a fine artist, how has that sensibility transferred over to your designs?

MS: I have always, my whole life, been able to see and work three-dimensionally. I think my imagination and creativity has been a great tool in discerning between fabrics, and creating fabrics and washes that are intrinsic to the silhouette.

I think understanding the concepts behind denim, its history, its current place of manufacture, its function in todays world are all tools I took from my fine art background. I feel like my vision and my interpretation of modern denim is yet to come full circle.

RD: How has your upbringing in Southern California influenced the brand?

MS: Southern California is the best place on earth–at least to live, surf, and make clothing. I feel like the ‘laid back attitude’ that Southern California has become known for, throughout the world has swallowed me whole. We have no need for winter coats here. I make clothing that suits my lifestyle. Its kind of a laid back luxury, and I feel like SoCal is the best place to be.

Image courtesy AB Fits

Image courtesy AB Fits

RD: Why have you chosen to keep production in-house in Southern California?

MS: I started here, I dont really see why I would move it somewhere else. My life is here, I think If I were to move to Japan, I would manufacture there. It’s not a convenience, it’s a work-life thing. I put my Life into my Art and my Art into my Life. It would be different if I lived somewhere else. I might be making wooden furniture if I lived somewhere else…

I also think LA is also the capital of America for denim manufacturing, so I guess I’m a product of my environment.

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RD: What do you look for in a fabric when making your jeans?

MS: I look for what most don’t! The air is super thin where I’m selling product and It needs to be special, have a story. We don’t compete with too many brands, or try not to at least. I look at a lot of fabrics and if it’s not interesting to me then I dont think my customers will think so either.

That being said, I do have some more ‘standard’ fabrics that are in the line, and here I look for something super deep in color, which will give more variety when washing..I tend to gravitate toward softer fabrics. Fabric can inform the silhouette, and vice-versa.

Matias at a recent event at Brooklyn Denim Co.

Matias at a recent event at Brooklyn Denim Co.

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RD: How has MATiAS Denim evolved and changed since its inception? Is this where you thought you’d be?

MS: I didn’t think where the brand should be, or could be when I started it. I will tell you though, I started painting on trucker hats, deconstructing Dickies and vintage clothing and somehow got involved in deconstructing Denim. MATiAS has come a long way! My more recent goal was to sell to some of the best retailers in the world and I would say we are well on our way.

RD: How would you explain your creative approach to designing denim? What motivates you to eschew the traditional five pocket in your designs (like the Lunado which has a drop crotch and a no back yoke)?

MS: I think this approach is about identifying what it is that you are trying to say…or do. My approach is to ask questions about a basic 5 pocket jean or any garment, understand its functionality in my universe and then come up with a way to be avant-garde without screaming it. In my experience, people have a harder time understanding your vision if you stray too far from the mainstream.

The Lunado has become a very Iconic MATiAS Staple and It has sold tremendous well over the last year or so. I think it’s the forefront of what MATiAS is, it’s a comment on mainstream denim and fashion and is sort of a breath of fresh air to people who identify with it.

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RD: You describe MATiAS as a “post-heritage brand”. What led you to that title and what is “post-heritage” to you?

MS: Heritage is such a buzz word. I DO NOT identify with this, or Modern for that matter. Post-Heritage is a play on words, stemming from POST- MODERN and discussing Heritage as a starting point in my denim career. I LOVE Heritage Denim, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it wasn’t for Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis.

I wouldnt be able to do what I do if it wasnt for the invention of the shuttle loom or yarn dyes, or Cone Mills or any of these tools I use to tell my story. I am an American, I bleed red, white and indigo…but I also need to be ME!

RD: What can we expect from MATiAS heading into 2015 and beyond?

MS: MORE POST-HERITAGE!


To learn more about MATiAS Denim, visit their website.