With her most recent collection, Pink Matrix, narrating the fantastical universe dreamt up during her childhood, Mata Durikovic is fashioning biodegradable pieces charged with whimsical references that pay homage to the crystal-clad galaxies envisioned in her youth. Her work for MadbyMad epitomises bioluxury in fashion, integrating zero-waste techniques into her designs as well as innovating her own material that she’s named ‘Bioplastic Crystal Leather’, composed of all natural ingredients that produce a result that’s as edible as it is wearable.
With looks flushed with pastels and adorned with ethereal embroidery and crystal details, the designer aims to subvert preconceptions of what sustainable fashion looks like, demonstrating its potential for years to come through her interpretation of decadent futurism. Here, we talk to Mata about her own definition of bioluxury, the process of her storytelling and her vision for a more sustainable direction for the industry at large.
Could you begin by introducing yourself - where are you from and how did you begin your design journey?
I’m from Slovakia, and my design journey predominantly began during my childhood. My grandma introduced me to a lot of hand crafting techniques, and my creativity began to flourish at around the age of four or five. My mum was a chemist, and would take me to laboratories a lot, which I think influenced me to be increasingly innovative with my designs now. The same can be said for my dad, who designs machines - this introduced me to the more technical elements of design.
By the age of eleven, I had decided that I wanted to be a fashion designer. I entered a competition in a magazine that involved designing outfits for characters but didn’t win - it was a breaking point for me back then, thinking I’d never become a successful fashion designer, which is so funny to look back upon now. This did end up giving me a push to research how to become successful in the field, looking into where to study, which led me to where I am now.
Where does the name of the brand come from? What does ‘wearing it mad’ mean for you?
My brand is: be bioluxury. By this, I’m aiming to show people that pieces can be sustainable, and made from things from around the home, but it can also be haute couture at the same time.
Sustainability appears to be ingrained into the fabric of all that you create, incorporating zero waste technique into your pieces - could you explain why this notion of bio-luxury is important to you?
As my background is partially based in chemistry due to my upbringing, I’ve always loved to experiment. When I was younger and playing with my grandma, I noticed how a lot of the things she did came from a place of sustainability - these were both elements that shaped how I was drawn to developing and incorporating zero-waste techniques into my designs.
To fast forward to the point at which I was studying fashion, I started to ask myself questions like: why am I studying fashion? How can I help to change things in this industry, on a global scale? The answer came to me through thinking back to these nostalgic memories I had with my grandma from childhood, and it was actually she who introduced me to working with bioplastic material in the end.
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This concept was also the foundation for your most recent collection, Pink Matrix, which was just showcased during London Fashion Week. What was the vision behind the name and the nebula-inspired aesthetic that ran throughout the collection?
This collection was very much centred on spreading the message of bioluxury, which for me is all about combining bio elements with the notion of luxury, using my biodegradable materials. I wanted to show that you can create looks that don’t even look sustainable, subverting our expectations of what we think the term sustainable clothing denotes.
I created Pink Matrix because as a kid I would imagine a whole universe in my grandma’s apartment, which her and I would pretend to travel through. Each galaxy in this universe would be rooted in one section of her apartment, and there were four. The first was a crystal galaxy, related to my grandma’s crystal cupboard which was full of her brooches, that she’d charge under a full moon to enact their healing powers. It’s also the reason why I called my bioplastic material crystal leather because I was creating garments with a crystal effect that I wanted to have a healing quality with the ability to open a portal to a new galaxy for the wearer. The second galaxy was a flower galaxy; my grandma had so many plants in her apartment, and I used to imagine creatures being born inside the plant or flower that would come out during the full moon to play with me. In my head, they’d take care of the plant, and I’d create little stories for each of them. All different types of flowers would feature, from peonies to tulips. The third was a strawberry galaxy, inspired by the strawberry cakes my grandma and I used to bake together - which was my favourite! The final galaxy was influenced by lemons because my grandma had a plant that her neighbour gave her - except the plant never grew lemons [laughs]. But as a child, I’d imagine it did, and that a lemon crystal fairy had spawned to heal the plant, and to help it grow lemons. Each of the outfits in this collection represent each of these specific galaxies my grandma and I created together.
The name also reflects the questions I posed to myself at the start of my career, when I asked why I was pursuing fashion. I imagined the industry as this matrix that lured me in - and in my head, that matrix was pink. As you grow up, you realise that things are not necessarily as they seem to be when you’re young and wide-eyed about the world.
Your work features a striking, vibrant colour scheme flushed with pastels as well as pops of electrifying hues. What role does colour play when envisioning a new design?
I tend to hyper fixate on specific colours - as I kid, for instance, I’d insist on only wearing pink. Later I had a blue period, when I was about eight years old. Each of these periods lasted around a year, and then I’d move on to another colour. This reflects in my work, as I use each of these colours I’d fixate on throughout my life in my designs - beige, yellow, pink, a little red, blue and touches of neon all serve as the foundation for my pieces. This is even reflected in my personal wardrobe today; everything I own sticks to this clothing colour palette I’ve created throughout my life.
Many of your pieces play with silhouettes to create ethereal shapes, producing an almost alien-like result. What role does structure play in your storytelling?
I begin with exploring the recycled material, then I determine design based on the material quality, its function, and how it behaves. From this I decide which product to use it for. I start with small samples that are developed into larger experiments, but this is the starting point.
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I understand you’ve developed your own bioplastic edible fabric, created from fruit jelly to produce a leather-like material. What inspires the evolution process of innovating these new techniques?
It all began with my grandma, and how she’d reuse starch water after cooking potatoes to water the flowers. This mixture also actually serves as the base for bioplastic material. That’s where the evolution of the process of developing the bioplastic material all began - she really was the inspiration.
I’ve also read that you’ve previously collaborated with a VR artist to add a new dimension to your work by recreating it in VR. Can you tell us about this experience and the inspiration behind it?
He approached me initially, asking to collaborate on a project for his exhibition. It was amazing - he scanned my garments, and they were rendered in VR. It was incredible seeing the final product, my designs in a VR video.
Your artistry holds sustainability at its core, but the world of fashion more generally still has steps it can take to reduce its harmful impact on the environment. What steps do you think the industry could be taking to achieve this?
The industry needs to start advertising how, and in what way, clothing items are actually recycled - this will allow the population to make more informed choices when shopping. I think it’s time we educated the younger generation on the reality of fast fashion, too. There needs to be a way to reduce this desire that’s evolved to constantly buy and accumulate clothing items, because without consumers willing to partake in the purchase of fast fashion, the industry won’t have the incentive to keep producing it. As for biomaterial, I don’t even see factories using it, because it’s so unprofitable for them to incorporate it into the designs they produce - they just want to make everything as cheaply as possible. I therefore don’t see big businesses changing this anytime soon. What we can do as designers is spread the message; in embracing sustainability in our work, we can help to educate the younger generation on eco-friendly fashion. Buying vintage, reworking old clothes yourself - these are all things that should be encouraged to help shape the future of fashion.
Finally, do you have any new projects planned for the future?
I’m currently working on finding my own studio, as I’m currently creating everything from my home. As I just graduated from university last year, I think having a bigger space will allow me to begin larger projects. I have lots of exciting things on the horizon - more exhibitions and showcases of my pieces are on the way!
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