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Interview With Designer Matty Merrill of Distilled
STYLE
Interview With Designer Matty Merrill of Distilled
by Evan Orensten
on 11 September 2007
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I just got back from Project Las Vegas where I caught up with Matty Merrill from Distilled Clothing, one of the newest and most eye-catching menswear lines from San Francisco. I first met Matty back in June when I visited him in his design studio south of Mission and checked out the current fall collection. This time I had a chance to preview the Spring 2008 collection and was really impressed. It’s incredibly preppy, but in an untraditional way that combines different patterns and fabrics like seersucker and plaid, gingham bibs and collars on a pique polo, and mono-chrome shirts and ties in different pastels. Definitely one of the freshest lines for spring, innovative but something most guys could comfortably wear. After the madness of Vegas was over, I asked him for an interview to talk about Distilled, the spring collection, and his approach to design.

Andrew Tilbury for Cool Hunting
When did you start Distilled?

Matty Merrill
Two years ago my buddy Sep and I started Distilled. We met in college at Stanford. I moved to New York to become a fashion designer and he got his PhD in Math from Stanford. I studied product design with a bunch of mechanical engineers and product whizzes. I originally wanted to design art objects, like stuff you find in a MoMa Store, but the opportunities in fashion ended up grabbing my attention. I am obsessed with the "design problem" — creating a new detail or feature that is completely useful, making better clothes, of course.

CH
Form meets function...all that?

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MM
Yeah, but garments bring this whole new challenge in that they have been around since man was cold, so there is this amazing platform of experience. I just get to come in and add the brilliant details. That and the fact that the seasons are so close together which drive super rapid development is what drew me to fashion. I love creating 40 products every few months. In art objects it’s one piece every two years.

CH
And if you create something no one likes, they forget about it quickly!

MM
Getting the rug pulled out from under you is good sometimes and with the rapid trends of fashion it happens all the time.

CH
What do you think about that phenomenon of the rock-star designer? I’m thinking about Philippe Starck or Richard Meier.

MM
If you're able to build a brand around your own style—whatever that may be—you're in good shape. I definitely have not-so-secret dreams about making Distilled mops and shower curtains.

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CH
How did you come up with the name Distilled?

MM
Distilled reflects the idea that we distilled garments down to the best parts. Fit, function, and in our case, good art. You should definitely check out the artists for this season, all stencil artists like Adam5100 and Peat Wollaeger, for instance. The ones from the fall line are outsider artists who are not classically trained but make amazing stuff. One's a scientist from MIT, some street artists and this amazing artist named William Scott. He's autistic and draws his own utopian vision of future San Francisco all day. It's nothing but highrise apartment buildings and churches. He calls it, “Praise Frisco.” The group he works with is Creative Growth. They represent many artists with disabilities. They are inspiring as hell.

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