BY Keith Recker | March 16, 2010
Designer Cristina Gitti plus Indian artisans equals Matta
Matta is the brainchild of founder and designer Cristina Gitti, whose feeling for handmade textiles is evident in her thoughtful, fluid and sensuous clothing collections. India is clearly an important influence in her work, and Cristina shared some of those thoughts with HAND/EYE just a few hours after landing in Delhi to work on her Spring/Summer 2011 collection.
HAND/EYE: When did you first go to India? How did you react?
Cristina Gitti: My first trip to India was in 1995, and it was intoxicating! I couldn't sleep because I was overwhelmed and restless. I remember spending the nights with my eyes wide open, thinking of what I experienced during the day, making drawings in the dark, listening to unknown noises and smelling new perfumes.
Was there a particular textile or bit of clothing that started your imagination going on that trip?
I visited a few factories, and found myself in love with block printing. I was so lucky to receive full attention from an artisan and great friend, Dinesh. He taught me the whole process, how blocks and colors work together on different fabrics. It was the best time I have ever had. It took me 2 weeks to figure out 2 prints!
Can you describe what you do in India now: how you work with textile artisans, how it is important for your business, how your customer values what you do.
For a few years I came to India as much and as often as I could. That precious time was spent exploring and learning. Now, my visits are planned according to the schedule of new seasons and collections. My time has been more constricted since I became a mother.
In preparation for going to India, inspiration is gathered and new stories are organized. Prints are finalized and color schemes decided, so that before I arrive, my artisan partners have received the new storyboards and specific tasks, and I can test prints and colors immediately.
There are always surprises, and I love to improvise. There are lucky finds and some mistakes.
Overall, my visits to India and to my artisans are possibly the most important step in the whole process, because it is the only time I can fully concentrate on the creative part of the process, with maximum technical support. The artisans I work with are very skilled, and working with them is an interesting and challenging project. Often, we get started on ideas and don't see them coming along for months, then find results waiting for me after a few visits!
I like to revive fashion techniques I sometimes come across in markets or old shops that have been temporarily dormant, but still survive after thousands of years. This is what is really fascinating about India: the feeling that this amazing textile universe has been around for so long and still has a market. I like to translate this sense of history and tradition while experimenting with more contemporary patterns and color schemes. I think this is the heart of Matta and my work, and what is most appreciated by the final consumer.
Have you ever had a particularly instructive handmade flop? What was it and what did you learn?
The worst was possibly a hand woven cotton and silk fabric, with metallic zaari threads as tiny stripes... We used the first run and dyed it in 3 different colors for sampling, but then the final production would not dye the same way!!! The silk fibers behaved strangely and would refuse the dye. We lost the whole season. Too bad, it was such a nice fabric. I learned not to take it too hard.
How do you keep your collections evolving? Where do new ideas come from and how do you put them into action with your artisans?
Collections grow as I find new inspirations and new ways to express them. My travels, books, pictures, swatches, drawings... Ideas come from everything and everywhere, and curiosity feeds them. Then they become something on the loom or on the printing table.
What's next on your creative agenda?
I just landed in Delhi 12 hours ago, and am working on the new Spring and Summer 2011 collection! The newest and most exciting project is the shop I plan to open in Sag Harbor at the end of Spring, another version of Matta, this time sea inspired....
To learn more about Matta (or to shop) please visit www.mattany.com, and visit the Matta boutiques at 241 Lafayette Street and on the ground floor of ABC Carpet and Home at 888 Broadway.