||Unholy Matrimony, a line known for its dark, edgy designs by artist-founder Brett Westfall, takes fashion-as-art to the next level. Westfall, who's been called "Rei Kawakubo's protégé," sketches, dyes, paints, and hand-crafts each piece himself. He sees his forward-thinking clothing as an extension of his conceptual art, and vice-versa. The result? A cerebral aesthetic experience, a bunch of one-of-a-kind pieces, and the chance to wear original art.
Brett Westfall Gets Fresh
I sat down with Brett at his solo exhibition, "Sherf," in downtown Los Angeles to talk about his art, his love of fashion design and hatred of the fashion game, and Unholy Matrimony.
So, tell me about your clothing line, Unholy Matrimony.
I started Unholy Matrimony in 2003 with the idea of combining conceptual art and fashion design. On the clothing, everything is idea-based and there are always deeper philosophies and meanings behind every piece. It's all made in the same way I make art and I try to make everything myself, by hand, if possible. I do all of the graphics by hand with ink, no computers.
Can you give me an example of a favorite conceptual piece from your line?
I had these T-shirts that were like a Rorschach painting, but instead of ink, I did them with acrylic. Every single one was different. Each piece was unique with a unique design that I did by hand, almost 500 total. It took about a month to finish.
And then for Spring/Summer 2006 I did a collection that was based on all T-shirts. For women, it was a lot of reconstructed dresses and ponchos. Those pieces I loved because it was a challenge to work within a limited budget, pull it off and make it look good. Making simple things avant-garde is really difficult, rather than just making whacked out stuff.
How many people are involved in Unholy Matrimony?
Three, total. I do all of the design, everything visual and creative. We work out of my house in Hollywood.
Tell me about your background.
I grew up in Irvine, skateboarding, but I always wanted to do art. I was painting and drawing from when I was really little, so I finally just decided to do it. Then I started a T-shirt line with an artist friend of mine. He was taking a silkscreen class and made a shirt and gave it to me. One day I was painting in it and got paint all over it. He worked at Ron Herman and wore the shirt one day. They were like, "Where'd you get that? We love it!" He told them it was a "collaboration" and that's how we started that line.
I started [my own line] Unholy Matrimony in 2002, launched it in 2003. It was picked up by high-end boutiques in L.A. like Mameg and Maxfield's. Around that time, I put together a package for Comme des Garcons, with a letter telling them who I was, a little about my work and how it would be great to work with [Comme des Garcon designer] Rei Kawakubo. She is my favorite artist of all time. About a week later, her husband called me and said they wanted to represent me. It was a dream come true.
What did that collaboration with Comme des Garcons entail?
We did a double label. I would come up with designs and send my ideas to Kawakubo's middleman. Then he would send them on to her and she'd tweak them out with her ideas - that's where the collaboration happened. And then I would I produce everything myself. All of my designs - which you could find in two stores in Japan - had a label that read: "Unholy Matrimony | Brett Westfall for Comme des Garcons." That pretty much put me on the map and opened a lot of doors for me. That was two years ago and, just now, a lot of things are happening in a good way.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I think a lot about the environment and nature. I get inspired by strong people and music, a lot of music. Metal, punk rock. I play in a band called
. I like a lot of classic rock, too.
We're sitting here at your art exhibition, "Sherf," which is also the basis for your new collection of clothing. Do you distinguish between art and fashion? Or art and style?
If you relate art and fashion together, its all about the philosophies behind it. Do you want to wear something to be glamorous or do you want to make a statement? I don't really like the glam side of fashion. I just like to do my own thing and avoid the "Yeah! It's party time!" kind of scene in fashion.
For me, it's all about making art. Of course, I want my clothes to look good on people but I want all of my [art and fashion] projects to relate, so that the clothes match the paintings, which match the lifestyle. Whatever comes out of Unholy Matrimony is going to be very art-driven and art-based. I want to make people think. I want the clothes to be looked at as art. These new "Sherf" T-shirts are avant-garde because of the ideas behind them. They're based on these paintings [from the Sherf] exhibition]. You get a certain feeling from them, and that's what makes it avant-garde. But, also, you can just wear a T-shirt upside-down and that can be avant-garde too.
What's the story behind "Sherf"?
In May, my friend and I were going to San Francisco for a show. About 100 miles south of SF, in this little farming town called Patterson, our car broke down and we were stuck for five days. There were fruit signs everywhere, these white signs that said "Fresh" with strawberries painted on them. Those were some of the raddest paintings I've ever seen. That sparked something, so I took that concept and told a story about everything that had happened and made it my own. The backwards "Fresh" spelled "Sherf" shows how backward everything felt. You can also look at it like, things that are right under our nose and we don't even notice, like, the importance of produce, of farming, of agriculture.
How does the "Sherf" concept translate to your new line of tees??
What's coming up for Unholy Matrimony? It seems like you've been expanding your collections a lot as time goes on.
|The T-shirts have these same images on them. White, fresh strawberries, fresh cherries, fresh apricots. You're wearing the painting. I silkscreen them myself and dye them myself if they need to be dyed.
Big collections are hard. It's really hard. There was a point where it almost felt out of control so now we're just restructuring and refocusing. I'd rather concentrate on a really tight collection that speaks for itself.
Get your wearable Brett Westfall for Unholy Matrimony art @ Revolve.
Shop the men's collection of Unholy Matrimony right here.
Shop Unholy Matrimony for women right here.