Erin Mathias incorporates a variety of textures and patterns into her designs, mixing silver metal accents with structured matte leather. By placing luxurious velvet alongside technical pinstripes, her designs play on complementary opposites, blurring the lines between masculinity and femininity. The theme of her Fall/Winter 2017 collection was Industrial Elegance, in which Mathias explored these dualities through self-taught garment production. After receiving a hand-constructed denim jacket as a gift during her first year of college, she purchased her first sewing machine and began experimenting with textiles.
Inspired by innovative designers such as Off-White ℅ Virgil Abloh, Public School NY, and Acne Studios, Mathias studies past runway collections and incorporates an eclectic mix of styles into her designs. She starts with a sketch and some fabric, and then makes spontaneous decisions, through sewing and cutting. According to Mathias, the final product is often different than the original sketch, as new ideas emerge once she can see and feel the fabric.
Her clothing production skills were taken to new heights when Mathias interned with up and coming designer Charles Harbison, whose gender-neutral collections have caught the eyes of Beyoncé, Solange, and Michelle Obama. The summer after her sophomore year, Mathias lived and worked in lower Manhattan, assisting Harbison with garment design, editorial photoshoots, and private client fittings. She was often given substantial responsibility in the studio, and recalls a day where she reconstructed an entire jacket in the span of a few hours for Beyoncé’s CFDA fitting while her boss was in Los Angeles. Her hands-on experience with Harbison encouraged Mathias to continue creating and producing her own garments.
The industrial aspect of her F/W17 collection reflects her time spent in New York and her hometown of Pittsburgh, the Steel City. Hard metals are consistent throughout the collection, with silver chains and technical hardware acting as belts and jacket embellishments. The gold pleather crop top is chorded through aluminum nuts as one would find in a tool kit. The breweries of Durham, NC inspired the bottle caps on the olive green sheath dress, which Mathias acquired at The Scrap Exchange.
Playing as a forward for Duke women’s basketball, Mathias has always challenged the assumption that athletic abilities are inherently masculine. This has influenced her collection and also echoes the trends of Fall Fashion Week, whereby designers questioned the idea of gender as a binary construct. “The collection is all about combining hard and soft elements, which correlate to a convergence of masculinity and femininity,” says Mathias of her F/W 17 collection. This quality is reflected in her pieces, which can be dressed up with heels or down with sneakers.
A few of her pieces are unisex, which emphasizes the blending between men’s and women’s fashion. “Nowadays a male can wear more feminine pieces and a female can wear more masculine pieces… I love that I can wear the same jacket as my brother,” notes Mathias. She used her teammates and male friends as models for her gender-neutral collection debut on the West Campus Quad on September 29th, highlighting the collection’s inherent duality.