Matthew Linde’s Centre for Style by Zoe Koke


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You may remember Matthew Linde from a small feature we did on him and some of his projects in issue 9. Here Zoe Koke reports further on Linde and the Centre for Style, followed by some short interviews with some of the designers whose work Linde curates at his gallery/boutique hybrid.

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A few years ago Australian artist and curator Matthew Linde did a project as part of Melbourne Spring Fashion week. I have borrowed his description from his website.

 “11 (fabulous) people wearing velvet floor-length dresses chatter to themselves. Some sit and stand in 20-minute intervals- some remain on their mobile phones for the entirety, some engage in a musical performance at 8:15 pm. The opening is about trying to be fabulous, towards a gesture of aspiration and a meditation of being fabulous.” 

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Below this, he writes,

“It’s effortless, it’s two bits of this velvet I got from Paris stuck together, it’s sort of elegant, like classy because it’s so easy. The people who wear these are fabulous, that’s all that matters I think??”

Linde describes his work in fashion as a perpetual chase for what he deems fabulous. As it turns out, his version of fabulous is a strange and alluring mix of avant-garde and emotional. I recently went to a poetry reading held at the site for Linde’s collective fashion project, Centre for Style. Linde read a tender poem about the death of a pair of pants. New York-based poet Bunny Rogers Skyped in to read as well. Other writers shared vulnerable accounts with the crowd. One girl wore a ski jacket over a floral dress. She began by thanking her inspiring community. We sat on a Persian-like carpet under fluorescent lights drinking red wine. The tone was confessional and the standard of dress was high. I walked away feeling vulnerable and full.

The truth is a relationship to fashion can feel lonely. Trapped in glossy magazine ads and standardized bodies, fashion can snowball through an elitist visual vocabulary that feels inaccessible and unapproachable. But it is undeniable that fashion in its essence breathes life into common spaces, friendships, and communities. This is something Linde seems to understand, bringing the energy and meaning of community to fashion through his projects. His work celebrates the beauty in the commonness and chaos of performing our lives together. Through the Centre for Style, he organizes events as well as manages the sales of a broad range of local and international experimental designers. CFS illustrates Linde’s level of taste as well as his level of inclusion.

Portrait of Matthew Linde

Portrait of Matthew Linde

“My wardrobe is pretty sh*t, most people I know dress better than I do, I think I am scared of life,” Linde said in a fresh-faced web interview while still an undergrad at Melbourne university, RMIT, years ago. Today Linde is staging fashion collective action full time. In Melbourne, Linde may be best known for helping coordinate a longstanding eccentric fashion club night, CLUB D’LUXXX, with a cult-like following and parties that make memories of MuchVideoDance parties seem dull and sad. Now he is working on a PhD, as well as pioneering his own art practice on top of embarking on a musical project.  I first sighted Linde at work while visiting one of his group art shows, A Vogue Idea. Wielding a camera, he busily snapped pictures of friends sporting white wigs and white splattered loose silk robes, their faces heavy with thick paint. Some of them wore big silly wide brimmed hats and sandals. Later when I asked him how he organized the models for the show, he said that he just invited all his friends. I walked to the farthest room in the gallery where his installation was sequestered off from the rest of the exhibition. There in a room, a lonely yet poised mannequin wearing the same toga-like garment was striking a sassy pose with a plush-toy backpack and a big brimmed hat. She was hilarious, but poignant and beautiful, like everything else Linde brings together.

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Centre for Style’s prolific online and event oriented curatorial work honours the in-between spaces of fashion – the commodifiable vs. the experiential, experimental vs. accessible. At the CFS shop, emerging avant-garde designers and artists who develop their practice through fashion intermix. Clothing is installed both like art objects and products, for appreciation, as well as purchase. While discussing his ambitions to curate unmarketable and  experimental art, Linde expressed his concerns about seemingly taking too much credit for the work of others, his grey eyes round and serious. All in all, at the heart of his practice, it seems that Linde just wants to best represent his friends and the artists he admires.

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Here are a few interviews from CFS practitioners, whom I bombarded with a generic questionnaire.

H.B. Peace 

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What does your label represent?
H.B. Peace is not representative of anything really, but it does present different facets of the lives we see and experience daily in our own community. It’s focus, though undiscussed and unconscious has revealed itself to us as a refashioning or examining of purpose, purpose of clothing, material, identity, culture, and garment tropes. Though this concept of the examination of purpose is not of itself done on purpose, it has essentially revealed itself to be the purpose of our practice. All this though is shaded in a mist, one that renders the clear and formal examination of our work, at least to us, impossible.

What is Centre for Style?
Centre for Style is the best shop in Melbourne – Most stores are boring, most stores are cheap – Most clothing is boring – most clothing is cheap – Centre for Style is both yet neither.

What does Centre for Style mean to Melbourne’s fashion community?
We cannot answer for other Melbourne based practices, but to us as a partnership and in our solo endeavours it is really amazing to have Matthew listen to and get on board with most suggestions put to him. That isn’t to say that he doesn’t have things to say – he provides a lot of constructive criticism, suggestions and facilitates a lot of opportunities and events. Matthew’s fearlessness and complete conviction – his ability to bring people together and get them excited has been the cornerstone to the success of Centre for Style.

It has also brought a stage for us and others to cross-pollinate, appreciate, and discuss fellow practitioners works. We can always go in and see what D&K have done lately or Rare Candy. A lot of the other clothing in there is super exciting to see, having a whole rack of Susan Cianciolo or a re-staging of an Anna-Sophie Berger performance. In Australia a lot of fashion is experienced online, until going overseas Hugh had never seen a piece of Raf Simons clothing in the flesh, no-one stocks him here. Matthew has really managed to breach a hybrid between an online and physical space without it being obvious. Being a part of CFS makes you feel like you are in a tiny club and a huge world, all at once.

What is fashion for you?
Anything, everything, nothing and empty. It can be the most obvious signpost or the biggest disguise of all, and can be an obnoxiously self-aggrandizing dog-pissing contest (see sriracha chilli coloured lycra outfits from our first collection as proof) – we love the extremes!

What is the best thing about fashion today?
We wanna be able to say probably something cool like democracy, something etc, there is very little best and a whole lot of tears – but like much of the last ten years it is Miuccia Prada.

Anna-Sophie Berger

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What does your label represent?

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What is Centre for Style?

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 What does Centre for Style mean to Melbourne’s fashion community?

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 What is fashion for you?

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What is the best thing about fashion today?

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Blake Barns

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 1. What does your label represent?
My own practice is concerned very much with an empathetic design process. I’m lead by things I feel sorry for or have a pitiful response to. Clothing that insecurely aspires but falls short—usually because of its compromised, incorrect or unconfident design and realization. I’m intrigued and terrified by the friction that’s produced within garments— where the result looks like a dud attempt at base normality.

I’m interested in seemingly ’round about lazy’ solutions; specialist machinery and material used incorrectly/”dangerously”; partnering up fabrics that aren’t ‘technically’ supposed to be in the same room; appropriating practical/boring contemporary genres of clothing that aspire to uninspire; deftly regurgitating clichés of these—often diffused near invisible. There’s something about the  ‘plastic subtlety’ of these codes I find a little insidious and tragic—albeit intriguing. Attempting to again elevate these to positions of greater perceived worth, whilst resisting the industries preoccupations with newness and novelty.

2. What is Centre for Style?
An open-minded space
For the love of clothes

3. What does Centre for Style mean to Melbourne’s fashion community?
CFS is the vital missing link in the Melbourne’s fashion scene; it’s a focus that’s been absent far too long. Boldly linking disciplines under the umbrella of fashion and giving a small community of practitioners whom otherwise would have very limited abilities to present and sell their work a stage. In just a little over a year it’s enabled and fostered new Melbourne practitioners – like Dolci &Kabana, Hugh Egan Westland and Rare Candy (to name but a few). It’s incredibly quickly growing in force and influence, creating a new sense of optimism within the Melbourne fringe design community.

4. What is fashion for you?
A personal response to the language of the everyday act of getting dressed. It’s ever expanding and leaving something behind, it’s a fast paced abandonment, a lagging future-forecast with hidden-pocket-like practicalities, it’s a good ‘fit’ day in day out.

5. What is the best thing about fashion today?
Most fashion today actually depresses the hell out of me but I feel the negative vein of today’s industry drives sincere, intelligent and brave outsider practitioners who investigate their personal understandings and relationships to the broadest themes and forms of fashion.

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Bernadette Corporation member, Antek Walczak, once remarked to Chris Kraus, “What are people’s problems with fashion? There’s a blind spot—people think fashion is uniquely superficial, as if everything else is not.” We live in a hyper visual world, and fashion is continuing to engage with the ever-evolving ideas of the moment to describe something beyond words. And today, it feels like it may be reaching a dizzying point of democracy, as chaos is expressing itself in the hybridization of digital and physical culture as well as heaving under the weight of an increasingly dampened economy and a new form of global feudalism. Yet in experimental practices of fashion, movement reigns. Once washed out trends, or looks that defined off limits niches of class and culture are being dismantled, reconstituted and adopted in inventive ways. We are all participating. Centre for Style seems to signify some form of clarity and optimism on this path. And what’s unique about CFS is that it’s not a platform for sales and status, its a community trying to be honest with themselves and each other, pushing for quality and inventiveness along the way. And it’s not just what the fashion world needs, it’s what we could all use a little bit more of. CFS says to me, life is a mess, but it can be beautiful. Sit together on a big rug reading poetry. If this isn’t fabulous, I am not sure what is. – Zoe Koke