California Dreaming: Tessa Matthias, The Next Wave Designer Redefining CA Style

California Dreaming: Tessa Matthias, The Next Wave Designer Redefining CA Style

The California-bred designer is creating clothes on her own terms.

The California-bred designer is creating clothes on her own terms.

Text: Danielle Combs

It’s rare to meet a woman like Tessa Matthias who possesses immense fortitude, all while harnessing her strengths as both an empowered liberated woman and a designer whose creative spirit can transcend and flourish with every impactful design she creates. Though Matthias is California-born, the designer left the Golden State behind to pursue a career in fashion in New York. After a long stint at Theory, Matthias was propelled into every facet of the fashion industry—gaining a wealth of knowledge that ultimately allowed her to branch out onto her own.

Today, Matthias is forging her own destiny with a blossoming line that incorporates hand-made silhouettes, showcase precise workmanship and embody the laid back California vibe.

Describe the first instance you knew you wanted to become a designer. 

I was 7 years old when I saw my first sewing machine, which I immediately learned how to use. I was about 10 years old when I decided that I would be a fashion designer. I made my first piece; a Hawaiian print pencil skirt framed with chiffon. It was just decided. I educated myself from a very young age, by reading fashion magazines, on who was styling, photographing, designing and modeling. I memorized everyone’s name and what they did and why they were well known.

How was your eponymous line conceived?

I’ve been consciously manifesting ‘Tessa’ longer than I can remember. Probably, around age 10. It was around 5 years ago that I started building the first brand book, with my story written down and pulling images together etc. The company is now 3 years, and 3 months old.

How has designing for big companies like, Theory, influenced you and allowed you to grow as a designer? 

I was very fortunate to work at Theory, specifically working on what I was building with the active wear division Theory38/ Theory+. It was an opportunity that I revere with very high regard, and it is definitely something I still carry with me. There was freedom that I was given to be creative for a company that already had its own solid foundation. I gathered so much research on technology, manufacturing, production, and merchandising—all of the guts of this industry and all the elements that generate success but are behind the scenes. I don’t know if a lot of designers really get educated on that end of the business enough. I was physically in the factories overseas working directly with both factory owners as well as sewers. It was invaluable.

What are some of your main sources of inspiration and how does that influence the way you design? 

Inspiration is always in flux. At the moment I’m inspired by my home and location in Los Angeles. It feels like another world up in Laurel Canyon living under the trees. It’s a spiritual place for me. Also music at the moment is a super source of education for me… just idea wise – politically, socially, spiritually, emotionally – and those topics are a big part of my design ideas or big picture visions. I try to just have fun with it though. Everything in our world is very heavy right now, so I feel it’s important to have a sense of humor and light in my creative expression. Life needs to be celebrated more again. My daughter Mason reminds me of that on the daily. She is my forever muse that angel.

California is still having a major moment in fashion, and being a CA native do you find that the culture has influenced the way you design?

Yes it definitely influences me and always has. It’s of course a genuine connection for me as I grew up in Los Angeles and it also happens to be a look of the moment. I’m not really trying to think about it that much. I’m just making things.

Your FW17 collection possesses an air of coolness and charm. Can you talk about the elements you incorporated throughout your designs? 

Thank you, that’s nice to hear. I approached FW17 with a very easy chill energy in terms of fit – but wanted the fabrics and colors to feel fresh and special. I believe that’s really how I move into every collection though. There was this concept of freedom that I had when designing Fall – it ended up translating into the black history Obama t-shirt, the NASA patch sweatshirt, and the American flag dispersed into different places.

My Father, Jan Matthias, is an engineer and designer, and his work with Porsche Design and NASA was and is a giant reference for me. He is from Germany, and my mother is from Australia, making me a first generation American. It’s something I am conscious of in my expressions, and exploring social freedoms was a part of the Fall 2017 season for sure. It’s always playful and positive through my eyes though.

Where did you draw inspiration or pull references from for your upcoming Spring 2018 collection?

SS18 was all about having fun. I thought about things that I loved as a child – skateboarders, tie-dye, textiles, hooded sweatshirts, and Hawaii. I really put myself in a state of dreaming and made everything that I would want to wear if I lived in my idea of a utopian world. There is a lot of joy in life, existence and expression - and I’m pulling that from deep inside my heart because I think that this planet and its people need a lot love right now. So I’m just making pieces that make me feel beautiful and happy, and I hope that does the same for others. To speak on my use of the Virgin Mary as a graphic – I was trying to think about who is the most famous woman to have ever lived – and she fills that space. It references the power of the feminine historically.

Click through the slideshow below to view her Fall 2017 Collection.

TESSA MATTHIAS FALL 2017

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