The ‘almost an obsession. – Interview with Matteo Niero’ is one of our online ISSUE segments, head to THE EMERSION ISSUE for the complete interview and set of pictures
Who is Matteo Niero? How old are you? Where are you from?
Hi, I’m Matteo Niero! I’m a 26 years old fashion designer. I’m from Roncade, a little town in the north part of Italy, about 20 minutes far from Venice, but I’m based in Milan now.
How did it all begin?
It all began when, after moving to Milan and not finding job opportunities within other brands, I started creating the first outfits to expand my Portfolio. From there I started making pieces with my own label.
What were your first influences?
When I was a child I grew up spending most of my time with my grandmother who was a pattern maker when she was young. From an early age I was used to seeing sewing machines, patterns, fashion magazines and tons of fabrics to make clothes. With her I learned to make the first patterns paper and to sew the outfits for the barbies I used to play with. I still remember my first barbie outfit: Black denim jacket and pants with fabric inserts, printed with the D&G logo – a scraps found among my grandmother’s fabrics.
With her I also started creating my first accessories. We always went to haberdashery together to buy pearls, rhinestones and stones to make necklaces, bracelets and earrings.Shopping with her was also a special time. At the age of five, I was already running around the shops looking for Valentino clothes and Gucci bags, knowing perfectly well what she liked and what could suit her better.
In short .. my childhood was full of colors, rhinestones and clothes, but not only this. I immediately learned to work hard to achieve my goals, always remaining true to who I am.
Studying fashion design in Venice and working as a sales assistant in a concept store, I met the garments of personalities such as Margiela, Alexander McQueen and Yamamoto that strongly influenced my personality and my design.
How would you describe your personal style?
It is a mix of different elements. It cannot be described with simple words, because it is a work of continuous research through fabrics, volumes, shapes and colors. Elements and details from the world of Haute Couture combine with exaggeration of Camp aesthetics, often investigating the theme of sexuality, to redefine the concept of masculinity and femininity in garments that can be worn every day. A kind of prét-àcouture, mixed with art, urban culture and music.
Has your heritage influenced your designs?
Absolutely! My style is a conglomerate of experiences and elements that come from my past and my studies. I believe that each of us is the result of what we have lived and done in our own life. All of this is then reflected in what you do every day of your life and, in my case, it is also reflected in my design. I carry my childhood, my experiences and my studies with me. I know I’m still very young, so I can’t wait to have lots of new experiences and learn a lot more to be able to grow more and more and involve my design.
How did Ballroom enter your life? Has it boosted your growth as a designer?
Ballroom came into my life when I was in my last year of fashion design at university. I was studying the world of sub-cultures, of the Queer and Camp aesthetics: that’s where I read the word “Ballroom” for the first time. From here, a universe opened up to me, that I never expected. I kept searching about it and started loving the Ballroom Scene, until I decided that this would have been the main topic of my graduation collection. The docu-film “Paris is Burning” was also important to understand where it all began.
When I attended the first Ball in Milan (The Scandalous Ball by LaB Fujiko in 2019), I felt like a child in Wonderland. It was full of colors, lots of personalities all different from each other, and I realized that perhaps that could have been also MY space. I come from a very provincial town, where everyone is very narrow minded. Attending a Ball in person made me realize that I could be really free too. For sure all of this has affected my work, shaking off a lot of prejudices, empowering my self confidence, making me feel free to create and show who I really am.
We have seen you walking designer’s delight and creating clothes for Ballroom personalities for other fashion categories. What has this experience been like?
The first outfit I made was for my boyfriend Latisha Ninja. It was a hand-dyed cow pattern jacket with crystals hanging off the shoulders. It was the first time one of my pieces entered the Ballroom Scene and from there I started creating many other outfits.
I felt the need to do more and experiment more, so I walked Designer’s Delight for the first time at The Scandalous Ball by LaB Fujiko in 2021. Walking this category means presenting an outfit entirely designed and made by you. This leads you to work on a different theme each time, experimenting more and more and showing each time a side of yourself that no one has ever seen. Each outfit leads you to know yourself more and to grow technically and personally.
Since I started walking Designer’s Delight, the requests have increased, and I found myself creating outfits for Balls in Rotterdam and Paris as well. It is an experience difficult as much as beautiful. There is a lot of work to do and it really requires a lot of energy, especially when the person you are making the outfit for is not close to you physically and you find yourself sewing an outfit that must fit perfect without ever make a fitting. But when you see that person walking in your outfit and feeling beautiful and confident, I think it’s the best thing that can happen to you. I feel like I’ve done the right thing when that person walks the category living that outfit.
What does fashion mean to Matteo Niero?
To me, fashion is not just a job. I think about it all day and every day of my life. It is almost an obsession. There is no time when I can sit still or not think about it. Even when I walk around Milan or take the subway I observe people, because I am interested in what they wear and how they wear it. Often the best ideas come from everyday life and from people you might meet in a bar or on the bus. Fashion for me is the representation of what surrounds us and obviously it can be different according to who observes it. Making fashion for me is precisely giving back reality through my eyes, it is the only language I know to deal with certain issues
Written and Interviewed by Filippos Vogdanis
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