Matty Bovan Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear Collection

The smeary, glitchy psychedelic color effects that work their way through Matty Bovan’s fall video are a digital analogy for the vigorous free-form way that he’s always scrambled color, pattern, paint, and garments as if they’re materials on an artist’s palette.

Still, whatever wizard tech program arranged it, IRL it came from a church hall in York, shot on a few models Bovan had asked in from neighboring towns. The clothes themselves were collaged as always in his home studio several hundred miles away from London.

One thing the pandemic has underlined in preventing physical fashion weeks is that the location of designers has pretty much ceased to matter. Separation anxieties apart, that’s a boon in disguise for localists like Bovan. Creative flow uninterrupted, he made even more of an effort to source regional British materials, including cloth from traditional U.K. mills like Hainsworth and giant sparkly bits made by The Sustainable Sequin Company, and had a hand-knitter around the corner from him knitting up a storm.

(He’s a contender in this year’s Woolmark Prize, and his argyles and machine-knit sweaters flagged that.) One more thing about local opportunities: Instead of flown-in supermodels—who were always enthusiastic walkers in Bovan’s Fashion Week shows—equally beautiful people from around the area got in on the action this time. So that’s all good, as a support for community jobs and morale.

Speaking of storms: Bovan’s church hall backdrop had digital photos of a sailing schooner struggling through heavy seas. A trope for the emotional Sturm und Drang we’ve all been helplessly thrown into at the mercy of implacable nature, of course. “I’ve always been afraid of the sea. I suppose it’s that fear of isolation,” he says. Hope, though. Bovan’s Odyssey theme incorporates allusions to both shipwreck and survival.

History always plays a role in Bovan’s scenarios, never literally, but continually surfacing from the depths of old English references that often chime with ideas about medieval, Tudor, and witchy things. There’s a black and white dress with a full peplum that Bovan printed with sailing ships.

Is it an echo of a portrait of a Sir Walter Raleigh-ish Elizabethan buccaneer, perchance? Well, there’s another sinking thought about the British at sea, just as this cursed isle is cut off again from Europe, rudderless in the face of post-Brexit trading chaos. U.K. designers and manufacturers en masse are feeling properly scuppered by the tangled bureaucracy of new export-import nightmares right now.

Not to heap too much heaviness on the vast fishnet shoulders and collapsed gauze curtain that float like a ghost ship across the floor in Bovan’s first look, though. It’s actually more like the kind of DIY costume any avant-garde art school kid might dream of putting together for a club night. Bovan represents that freedom among his cult followers too.

While working from home, Bovan is also joining in the effort to keep aspiring teenagers’ morales afloat by teaching free creative thinking and craft skills in Zoom calls for the British Fashion Council’s Fashion and Business Saturday clubs. They reach kids all around the country, equally. Executives and creative specialists who’d like to live up to their captains of fashion industry status in any country could consider following Bovan’s lead.