CHANGE IS THE ONLY CONSTANT AS THE GREEK PHILOSOPHER HERACLITUS ONCE SAID. THAT IS CERTAINLY TRUE WHEN IT COMES TO FASHION. PARIS BASED TWENTY SIX YEAR OLD MATS ROMBAUT IS PART OF A NEW GENERATION OF DESIGNERS WORKING IN AN INNOVATIVE AND LIFE-FRIENDLY WAY. ROMBAUT IS AN AWAKENED PERFECTIONIST. HIS WORK IS AS PIONEERING AS IT IS DESIRABLE. DISCOVER THE MAN BEHIND OUR LATEST COLLABORATION IN THIS VERY HONEST INTERVIEW.
Written by Bruno Pieters
BP: WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THIS COLLECTION?
MR: It started as a challenge; I wanted to make a 100% plant-based shoe. The concept came first and the design second, because the design had to be adapted to the concept. The inspiration behind the collection is simply shoes that I would like to wear: minimalist, angular cuts, monochrome color palette, referencing classic shoe models mixed with contemporary elements.
BP: WHAT MATERIALS DID YOU USE?
MR: The main material is tree bark, sustainably harvested in Uganda. Other materials are coconut fiber, natural rubber from trees in the Amazon and Sri Lanka, as well as cotton.
BP: YOUR ENTIRE COLLECTION IS LIFE-FRIENDLY. THERE WERE NO ANIMALS INVOLVED. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO INNOVATIVE WITH NEW MATERIALS?
MR: It's the core of my brand, the reason if its existence. I think as a new brand you have to bring innovation as well as a vision of the future. With all the waste on this planet, the growth in population and consumption, we are obliged to think about solutions to reduce our impact. One of these solutions is through innovative materials.
BP: ARE YOU VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN?
MR: I've been a vegetarian for 4 years now but I would like to make the transition to veganism in the future.
BP: WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT FASHION?
MR: The fun in expressing yourself and sending messages through clothes. Not only by creating but also by wearing clothes. It's an extension of your personality, a tool to define yourself as a unique human being. Depending on how you feel that day or what image you want to project to the world that day, you dress in a different way. I also love to create a brand with an image and have people buy into your idea of fashion, your idea of style. It's a game of desire and dreams where you have the possibility to dress as your ideal self.
BP: WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A DESIGNER? IS IT SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO DO?
MR: Yes. I wanted to start my own brand since I was 16. At that time I thought Raf Simons and Rei Kawakubo were designing every single piece themselves without a team and so the only way to be a designer was to have your own brand. As I wanted to control my own company I thought I had to study economics. I'm glad I did because now I know what I'm doing. I learned the design part instinctively and through closely working with designers over the past 3 years.
BP: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE FASHION INDUSTRY TODAY?
MR: I think what used to be luxury fashion has now become mass market. The imagery is repetitive, boring and doesn't shock anymore. Luxury brands and high street brands work in similar ways and because of the ever-growing pace of the market, there is little room for experimentation. On top of that there's a lot of hype, brainwashing and cruelty towards every living being. In-house people celebrate this cruelty and think as primitive hunters; that wearing animals and being cruel gives you a certain power and status within society. Most customers are in denial about what they wear and how it was made, they look at the branded piece and how much they desire it. Luckily, some people are aware and start changing mainstream habits. I believe more customers will look at the desirability of a garment in terms of its creativity, origin and uniqueness. Wearing the skin of an animal is no longer a sign of taste or privilege, making an educated decision is.
BP: HOW GREEN ARE YOU IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE?
MR: I consider myself quite green. I live in Paris where I don't have a car, I usually go by bike. I recycle and live in a small and well-insulated apartment. Inevitably I do take a lot of planes. I believe that if you manage to change the habits of a big group of people, this is where you can really make a difference.
BP: HOW IMPORTANT IS TRANSPARENCY TO YOU?
MR: Transparency exposes you to competition, but competition is good for change. Especially when you are proud of your process and origins, transparency is beneficial for everyone. I believe certain things lose their aura of mystique once you know how they work. But in some cases they become more beautiful and valuable. (I'm referring to shoes)
BP: WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?
MR: Music, Science, Art. Stephen Hawking, Jennifer Saunders and Rothko. I'm still looking for a muse.
BP: WHAT IS YOUR DREAM?
MR: To make a positive impact on the fashion industry and on the environment by setting an example. More specifically, I would like to build a factory one day that runs on solar power, that is 100% green – a place where people enjoy working.
BP: WHAT IS A GOOD DAY FOR YOU?
MR: When I feel loved, so I always have good days. What makes a day really good is when I feel l did something useful, that I've taken a step forward. Every day my perception of what is 'useful' or 'meaningful' changes, I become more demanding so it's harder to have great days.
BP: WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY TODAY?
MR: I take one step at a time, day by day. I live and let live.
BP: DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE?
MR: Yes, it's about the arrogance of the human species: "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing. And in knowing that you know nothing, that makes you the smartest of all." (Socrates)
BP: THANK YOU FOR THIS INTERVIEW.