TêTe à Tête: MAT MAITLAND
KENZINE: Can you explain your background?
MAT MAITLAND: My illustrative work was born from my design and art direction at Big Active where certain music projects allowed me to create imagery as well as control the art direction and design, Goldfrapp’s ‘Black Cherry’ or Beck's ‘The Information’, for example. From this I developed a portfolio of imagery away from a particular design project. This has allowed me to pursue fashion orientated imagery.
K: You work a lot with musicians or bands and their images have a lot in common with certain fashion brands which are strongly rooted in 80's or 90's pop culture. What would be the main difference in terms of approach - if there is any - when you work with a fashion brand?
M M: To a degree it’s the same, both are selling a fantasy, although for fashion there’s a sense that you can actually become that fantasy whereas for a record cover you are being invited into a different world as the audience to join them on their trip but not to actually become them. I guess though a fashion collection has a lot in common with an album, they both have themes and codes to honour visually.
K: Your work involves a lot of jungle animals - and especially some tigers we like so much here at KENZO - why do you think that animal prints are so iconic in graphic design and are always reinvented over decades?
M M: On a very basic level animal prints are visually stunning, they are ready-made timeless pieces of graphic design. The fact that they are rooted in reality means everyone can relate to them, they are a visual shortcut to wild times and earthly beauty.
K: You have a tumblr called "Leopard Tree Dream" dedicated to album covers. The term "digital diary" is used a lot to describe the tumblr form, would you consider it as a new form of expression for artists?
M M: In some ways "Leopard Tree Dream" is my own personal archive that just happens to live online for other people to see. I was always buying records for their covers and thought it would be nice to share them, to celebrate covers that I love and the people who created them. At the same time it’s a loose expression of my aesthetic which I guess relates back to my work, it's also become a point of reference for other people which is nice.
K: Why is it called Leopard Tree Dream?
M M: It’s the title of a song I love by Giorgio Moroder from the soundtrack to "Cat People" plus I have an obsession with leopards.
K: You have a really recognisable visual identity, why do you think this kind of imagery is doing such a strong comeback at the moment? Do you think that people need a certain surrealism or "surreality"?
M M: I’m not sure, as an imagemaker I’ve been working in this style for 10 years, I guess at some point the stars align and you find visual common ground with certain brands. In a way Kenzo and I are kindred spirits so it was exciting to work with you, especially at this point in time with what Carol and Humberto are doing as Creative Directors.
K: Can you explain us the concept behind the "Electric Jungle" video? What is the story of this girl running from one fantastic universe to another?
M M: I wanted the film to be an extension of my illustrative world, to bring that to life, so the jungle itself is quite surreal and otherworldly, a kind of electric parallel universe. I also wanted to blend the model with the clothes as much as possible so used the Kenzo patterns as an integral part of the story - sometimes over her face and sometimes embedded into the scene. I imagined the story as though dreamt by a wild cat - lucid snap shots of a neon jungle world that only make sense in a dream.
"Lovecat / Issue 5" Image of singer Cassie for Lovecat Magazine. Collaboration with photographer Steven Baillie.
"Nocturne" The first time I worked in black and white. This was a personal piece.
"Eye Of The Tiger" Featuring my cat Quincy. Well, he's the closest we could get apart from having an actual leopard.
"Jungle Love Part 2" Another personal piece which inspired the Kenzo film.
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