From its very beginnings, Australian label Matteau has stayed true to its original vision: classic styling, perfect fit, and a love of print and colour. Founded by sisters Peta Heinsen and Ilona Hamer, who work between Noosa and LA, the brand has attracted a cult-like following of industry names and fashion fans, and expanded from swimwear and dresses to seasonal essentials we all want to wear.
Elizabeth Clarke chatted to Ilona and Peta exclusively for Adam Heath.
Elizabeth Clarke (EC): Going back to your childhood, were you always inclined towards fashion?
Peta Heinsen (PH): Our mum is an amazing machinist and was always making clothes for us when we were younger. She had me on a sewing machine from a really young age, so I was always more interested in the making of clothes than the clothes themselves. Ilona, on the other hand, was obsessed with clothes from about 2 or 3 years old and changed outfits up to 8 times a day, which drove Mum mad constantly washing and folding up after her. We always said she would end up doing something in fashion.
EC: What is it like working between Noosa and Los Angeles?
Matteau (M): We have been working with distance between us for so long now that we really don’t know any other way. Before Covid, we would both do 2-3 trips a year back and forth so we had enough face to face time together. We’ve had to make it work in other ways the last couple of years, but hopefully soon that is going to get easier again.
EC: Where do you look for creative inspiration?
M: Mostly from film, books and women around us. Travel is also really important to us for inspiring and energising us for a new season.
EC: You are known for your fit and simple cuts. Were these important fundamentals from the beginning or did they evolve?
M: We have always been drawn to the classics and bringing them to a place for the now in the Matteau way. From the very beginning, we have focused on fit and ensuring our cuts and proportions are just right. It’s something we are very particular about.
EC: Are you ever creatively blocked? How do you fight your way out of it?
M: It can be somewhat difficult and frustrating working across multiple time zones and being on two sides of the world, and it sometimes weighs you down creatively, but we always manage to make it work. We are constantly looking for inspiration, so there is always a seed close at hand, we just have to find it!
EC: Your prints are glorious. What is the process behind them?
M: Thank you, we spend a lot of time working through prints each season. Our collections always start with colour and prints and how the palette pulls together as a whole, and then we delve deeper into particular areas of inspiration. It’s definitely a process that takes time, but we always know when we’ve got to that sweet place where it feels good and we can start to visualise the collection.
EC: How do you walk the line between being unique and having commercial appeal?
PH: That’s the benefit of having both of us working on the collection together. Ilona looks at it more from the creative direction. I am very much about the commerciality of the collection and how we can pull that together for the best result.
EC: Ilona, are you self-taught or did you study fashion design?
Ilona Hamer (IH): I studied briefly, but while studying applied for a position at Vogue which by chance I got, so went into working full time. You could say it was 6 years of education in a very specific place and I will be forever grateful for the experience.
EC: Who is on your mood board right now?
M: Our mood board is a collection of images that represent the Matteau woman. It’s a combination of art, film, travel, architecture and interior reference images and we love putting it together each season. Currently on our mood board is Jean-Paul Belmondo, Koto Bolofo’s photographs, George Bracques and Elsa Peretti.
EC: Have you been to Perth because it’s as if Matteau is made for us!
M: We haven’t been to Perth as yet but it’s definitely on our list once borders are relaxed. We would love to explore the entire West Coast more as there are so many beautiful beaches and varying landscapes in Western Australia. There’s a lot to cover, we probably need to make a few different trips!