The Illusionist

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In an era of meteoric, paparazzi-fueled fame, it's rare that a talented young designer manages to stay off the radar for more than a blip, particularly when his collection is selling at Bergdorf Goodman. But Matthew Ames, a reclusive Brooklyn-based designer who launched his namesake line quietly five seasons ago in Paris, has so far maintained a measure of anonymity despite early success.


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Ames graduated from Chicago's prestigious Art Institute in 2003, and a year later he competed in France's Hyeres festival, a hotbed for the international design vanguard. While Ames' early work evinced a touch of whimsy and retro girlishness that felt right a few seasons ago, he has recently returned to clean forms, a spare palette, and a certain sober '30s-inflected modernity that seems to spring from the same intellectual fount as Marc Jacobs' Metropolis-influenced fall collection. "This season, I was inspired by the Bauhaus design principles of basic geometric shapes, and artists of the movement such as Josef Albers, Laszlo Moholy-Nago, and Vasily Kandinsky," says Ames. "I was interested in removing the unnecessary and returning to the initial principles of modern design."


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With this restraint as his guiding principle for spring, Ames rigorously tailored skinny button-downs, crafted sleeves into broad circular shapes, and splashed optical harlequin patterns across little racer-back and ankle-grazing sheath dresses. Color, which appears only selectively, is bold and haunting. Ames sticks to mostly natural fabrics like linen and silk because he favors "the purity, and the contrast of them together."

For fall, Ames continues to explore his inquiry into shape and line "in relation to the body." The circle motif reappears on various pieces, including a monastic-looking cocoon coat, a cranberry-color mini-dress with exaggerated puff sleeves, and a pair of As Four-ish harem pants. The diamond print also resurfaces in richly layered shades of autumnal red and maroon. Sophisticated and avant-garde yet profoundly unfussy, Ames' collection would no doubt gain a stamp of approval from the design legends who have themselves made the greatest impression on the young designer: Rei Kawakubo and Martin Margiela. "Kawakubo and Margiela have not only challenged the way we think about clothes," says Ames reverently, "but they've changed the way we dress."


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For more information about Matthew Ames and availability, go to www.matthewames.com.

Photography by Carlotta Manaigo.

The bold view and sharp shapes of Brooklyn designer Matthew Ames.