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Designer interview with Felicity Lamers of Matisse

By Carolyn Enting

Designer interview with Felicity Lamers of Matisse
Felicity Lamers has worked with some of Australia's most successful fashion brands. Now she weaves her special magic for casually elegant label Matisse Ready to Wear.

You have worked with some of Australia’s leading and most successful fashion labels including Sportscraft and Meredith, the latter as product designer for 19 years. What is your official job title/role at Matisse?
My role is Design and Development manager and I oversee everything from creating and nurturing the product to overseeing the production processes with each department. We have a wonderful team of experienced people in sales, production and merchandising – all ex Meredith personnel. We are all passionate about the customer and the product and the continuation of my handwriting which is an unmistakable, casually elegant silhouette reinterpreted each season.

How would you describe Matisse Ready to Wear’s design aesthetic?
Matisse is all about colour, clean lines, comfort and simplicity … casually elegant with a point of difference. Matisse caters to confident women with a certain attitude, not an age and reflects an individual understanding of femininity and comfort.

When designing and producing a collection for Matisse, what non-negotiable elements must it have, in your view?
Elements that we consider to be important for Matisse items are color, quality yarns and fabrics, trims (we love beautiful buttons), interesting and perhaps unpredictable prints, combined in elegant styles that are easy to wear (no complicated layers or the need to buy lots of pieces to achieve a look) and natural fibres. Our customer is looking for a fashionable quality product that lasts, and it’s more like an investment piece or pieces so it must endure.

What was the inspiration behind the AW15 collection?
Our Winter 2015 was inspired by Henri Matisse – the namesake behind the brand name and his work in bright and energetic colors as well as macaroon pastel shades is reflected throughout the product range. We love how he worked with clashing colours and well as contrasts, bright and pastels and of course blue – which we have called Sapphire this season.

If you had to choose one, what would be your favorite piece in the current AW15 collection and why?
If I had to choose just one piece from the collection I absolutely love, it would be the daisy intarsia knit. I love the ‘Mary Quant’ feel and it makes me smile every time I put it on – wearable and fun at the same time, and with a splash of unexpected yellow colour.

You have built a reputation for your fabulous knits. What is the most challenging thing about designing knitwear?
I think the hardest thing is narrowing down the ideas to a workable collection each season for our customers. We always have so many things we want to do but we just can’t do everything. Some ideas are put on the back burner for future and other ideas are incorporated into styles we are running and if we just can’t live without it we add the style to the collection anyway.

Not only do you achieve easy elegance in your designs but they also contain fun elements as well as a beautiful colour sensibility. Where do you find inspiration, as a designer?
It sounds like a cliché but inspiration is everywhere. We talk to our customers and we observe everywhere. We might see something in a magazine or an exhibition or visit a supplier and see things that trigger the creative imagination. It is amazing sometimes where ideas come from but the key is the relaxed lifestyle we lead with attention to detail. Items can be fun as well as practical so we love to explore this side of it – adding some fun to what could otherwise be quite staid and serious (and boring).

What makes a winning garment in your view?
Quality versatile pieces in fabulous colors and shapes that can be worn by just about everyone from 35 to 70. Items that are easy to care for and that will integrate into your wardrobe to be worn again and again and still receive compliments every time you wear them.

Do you remember the first garment you ever designed?
I can’t specifically recall the first thing but I have always been passionate when it comes to fabrics and fashion and I was designing everything I could from a very young age – dolls clothes, outfits for my mum and for my sister and friends, then on to RMIT, and there was no turning back. I was obsessed.

What do you love most about the rag trade?
I love the challenge. I have always been very driven and each season there is always something new to look at and consider as trends change and new innovations are introduced. I love finding a colorful yarn or beautiful print that you fall in love with and the ideas just flow. Then there is the appreciation from the customers. We love a positive response because it means we are doing the right thing. It is wonderful to make people happy and if we can do this through our products we are really thrilled.

Do you wear-test your designs before you put them into production?
Our Matisse team wear our products (through choice) and we also fit and wear test during the wholesale selling season so we can fine tune styles before we go into production for the season. The first hand feedback we receive is extremely helpful and ensures that products delivered to customers are of the highest standard both in quality and fit. And of course our wonderful customers also supply feedback too – we find it invaluable to have this input direct from the shop floor as there are always things we can do to constantly evolve our product.

Where in Australia is home for Matisse?
Matisse is based in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne – a beautiful established area with lots of trees and wildlife. This in itself is an inspiration.

Where your favourite area in Melbourne to shop and why?
I am a fan of shopping strips compared to centres as you can always find something a little bit different – like Rathdowne Village in Carlton. Here in this beautiful tree lined street there are beautiful boutiques, cafes and even a bespoke jeweler, and I love the individuality of the shops and businesses here.

Where do you go for a good coffee?
If I feel like a treat I have a coffee at Rathdowne Street Café. It has a European feel, great coffee and the guys are lovely and ensure every customer feels special.

Most stylish restaurant?
I love Aux Batilfolles in North Fitzroy. I feel like I have been transported to Paris when I dine here. The food is typical French brasserie style served by French waiters. And the space is intimate and made up of raw brick walls lined with art deco pictures and menus from old French Restaurants


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