HOME > Interviews >
INTERVIEW WITH MATTHEW BRAUN OF RIVER ISLAND
WE CHAT TO THIS SENIOR MENSWEAR DESIGNER ABOUT HIS EDUCATION, CAREER AND FUTURE
For this interview feature we speak to River Island’s Senior Menswear Designer, Matthew Braun, about his path and journey to landing his job at just 29. He discusses what the average day is like, and what he thinks of working for such a large high-street retailer. We ask him about his future, where he gains inspiration, who his style icon is, and how he would describe his own personal style.
Hi Matthew, tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get to where you are today?
"I Studied at London College of Fashion and graduated with a BA in Menswear design, then I moved over the pond to the US to work for Abercrombie and Fitch. I worked on jersey and print design for A&F and Hollister and was part of the team to launch their London store.
After 2-3 years stateside I decided to travel and took a year away from it all, going on an around the world trip through the US, Australasia and Southeast Asia. Arriving back on English soil, I went straight in to work with Debenhams, designing all of men’s denim. This paved the way for my love of denim.
"When the chance of working for River Island came about, I jumped at the chance and it has definitely paid off"
I have been working for River Island for two years now and have already seen some great results."
So what's an average day in the studio like for you?
"The average day is pretty manic, whether it's supplier meetings or chasing down samples, I'm always kept busy."
How would you say River Island Menswear has changed in the time that you have been there?
"River Island has definitely changed within the last few seasons, customers are becoming braver with their choices, which in turn allows us to become bolder with our aesthetic, and create more statement garments or "fashion leaders" as they say. You could say that we've evolved with our customer."
What does the future hold for River Island menswear – where would you like to take it from a Design perspective?
"The future looks promising for us, and with the added drive from designer collaborations and one-off capsule collections, the company is moving in the right direction from a design point of view.
River Island has a great following and we've always been good at catering for our volume drivers like denim, print tees etc. But more and more we're edging in to the high fashion arena too. I'm particularly excited about our Studio Collection dropping in October, then there’s our Design Forum collaboration with Baartmans & Siegel, too many to mention!"
What inspires you as a Designer?
"People watching is my favourite thing, I would say that culture and travel have a big effect on me too. I get around a lot in my day to day job so I'm constantly stumbling across new inspirations.
British sub-culture is a big one for me also, the UK is such a rich resource for that stuff and something new is always popping up."
What excites you most in your job? Which part of the design process do you enjoy most?
"Can I say lunch?? Nah seriously though, there's nothing better than seeing your ideas realised in something tangible. The whole process from concept boards to fittings, to seeing it in store is a real joy."
What are your top picks for River Island Summer product?
"Our cut off denim shorts are an absolute must, and florals are massive for us this season. You can't beat an open Hawaiian shirt with a white tee or vest. Swims are also looking strong, especially our photo real shorts and heavy distressed acid wash brights."
Who is your ultimate style icon?
"Steve McQueen – Legend!! The cars, the bikes, the women and the clobber! He had it all."
How would you describe your own style?
"Relaxed, worn, dishevelled but clean. Think distressed denims, knackered tees, and battered converse with a groomed beard. I probably spend more time on my facial hair than on the rest of my look."
Any advice for budding young menswear designers?
"Stay true to your style. Learn how to apply it differently depending on what fashion house you're working for, make sure you hone a distinctive aesthetic. Work on it, it will pay off dividends!"