Briana Wilson of Matte Brand Defies Fashion Norms
The fashion industry has been critiqued by various defeated designers as it’s known to be a competitive and challenging industry. Yet each season, runway after runway, look after look, aspiring designers applaud fashion and its sumptuous reputation. The success stories of the more recent industry trend setters belong to the likes of Alexander Wang, Shane Oliver of Hood by Air, along with AREA duo Beckett Fogg and Piotrek Panszczyk (to name a few), each of whom have made statements in fashion by hustling hard, creating innovative designs, and maintaining cohesive and consistent quality as well as branding. Although these designers are now on Anna Wintour’s radar, their motivational stories still mirror that of Matte Brand’s Briana Wilson—a new designer who defines cozy chic with her signature bodysuits and nude color palettes. This young entrepreneur dove into the industry sans convention, by promoting and selling her collections through Instagram. Her looks have been worn by the always-stylish Kim Kardashian West, supermodel Bella Hadid, and “It Girl” Karrueche Tran, amongst others. Wilson’s collections encourage photoshoot frenzies with the #MatteBrand hashtag, meanwhile empowering women of all shapes and ethnicities to strut (and flick) her desirable staple clothing.
Milk.xyz sat down with Briana Wilson to hear how started Matte Brand solo, her trials and tribulations, and what experiential advice she has for fresh designers on the scene. Check the full interview below and if you aren’t already, get hip to Matte Brand.
What made you start Matte Brand?
I really wanted to work for myself. I moved from Texas—where I attended middle, high school, and some college—to New York, where I lived for a year and originated Matte Brand. My whole goal was to work for myself, chase a business type dream, my boyfriend has a clothing line called Death Precision and I was watching the way it worked and thought “I could do this too.” I started it as a little boutique and it just grew into a real passion for me—I started designing. I moved from New York to Los Angeles where I manufacture most of my pieces and learned how that process worked. It was something I stumbled upon definitely not something I planned my whole life but I fell in love with it. Now it’s my baby.
As a young person how were you able to devote your time to Matte Brand? Were you still working or in school?
Whenever I moved to New York from Texas I started to approach life differently. When I was living in Texas I was in school, I was a waitress, I had a nice apartment based off of my waitress lifestyle, and I had a car. Then I lost my job and within the same month my car stopped working. I was in Texas for five months after that and you know it’s hard to get a car without a job hard to get a job without a car and I don’t know I started reading a lot of books to really tap into my own intuition. I always wanted to live in New York so one day I was like if I wanna live there I should just be there so I sold my car which was a little old Jeep for $2,000 because it didn’t really work and moved in with a friend for a bit. While I was in New York more than anything it taught me that I needed to find a way to make it. I was very hungry for someway to live and saw so many different people making money creatively. When I first started Matte I had a job working with a salon for about a month or so, but used the funds I had to invest in Matte. When I first started I really wasn’t selling much—a mesh shirt, some crochet pieces, and some handmade jewelry. We would do pre-orders a lot which worked out because you get the money first and then can reinvest it into the brand.
For someone that is strictly a designer, how did you go about creating the actual pieces? Did you have to find a seamstress?
When I started I worked with seamstresses and I learned the process from them. The fact that you need to get a pattern made, get it grated, get a sample made, get the product cut, and I literally learned directly from those who I hired to create my vision. I think that as far as different Matte fits to get the exact thing it’s a lot of back and forth. I’ll have a base idea and then we work from there to make samples as we go. A lot has changed over the years I use to work with one lady specifically but for the most part I outsource for cutting, pattern making, or whatever I need to get done. The first two years everything was made in LA but more recently I started outsourcing in another country.
I’ve purchased a few looks from your brand and the fabric is amazing! How do you manufacture your products?
When I moved to LA I learned more about manufacturing. There is this one fabric store that I go to that is literally like 5 floors. I actually have a blog on my YouTube it shows inside of it and people can see that it’s so much fabric! I got really cool with the staff because I was there all the time and I learned a lot about fabric there. They house so much fabric and you can literally go there with a piece of clothing and say “Hey, I love this fabric can you show me what kind of fabric this is?” Then they will take you to a section that’s full of that type of fabric. I think also by making bodysuits as my focal point and being my highest selling pieces, I don’t want to use inexpensive fabric because the pieces I make won’t last long. So, finding the perfect fabric for a bodysuit was a challenge [Laughs]. Once I found the perfect fabric for that was consistent I thought, “I can’t go down from this.” As I’ve grown from different manufacturing companies, working with professional manufacturing companies, and buying fabrics in bulk I’ve made sure I stick to high quality fabrics.
As a young, successful entrepreneur, what struggles have you faced with Matte Brand?
I think that the whole thing is a struggle [Laughs]. Constant, constant. Definitely more so back in the day—right now I’m chillin’, life is really good, and I can’t complain. But when I started it was a lot of visionary things going on. The main purpose of moving from New York to LA was because I broke my leg and was told I couldn’t walk for three months so I decided to move to LA. At that time I felt so bad because I couldn’t walk and I felt it was necessary to push everything into my brand to be the best it could be. I tried to make as much money as I could, making jewelry back then, any ideas so I could have investment money, and that’s when I met a manufacturer. But, definitely being a young black woman running a business I’ve ran into so many situations where I’m not taken seriously but people can tell that I’m on to something. So, people try to take advantage because they think I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve been overcharged for things and people sell me dreams, I’m just now getting to the point where I know what’s up I know how much fabrics cost because I didn’t go to school for any of this so I’m learning as I go.
Sometimes that’s the best way to go because there is no formula. Is Matte Brand sold by any retailers? Tell us a little about your decision making process behind that.
No, actually it’s not but I am actually looking for retailers. I’m planning to put Matte in Agenda and I went last year but I didn’t see many female-owned brands. So, I’m excited for Matte to be there, especially this year because they are setting up Agenda to be more like ComplexCon where customers can shop on the last day and concerts. I’m excited to be a part of that and see what comes of it. I want to do more things to set Matte a part so it can be looked at for what it is and not just an Instagram boutique.
I think you’ve generated a buzz where people know about your story, which separates you from others on Instagram who are selling sexy dresses and lingerie. What’s the creative process for new Matte Brand designs? Do you launch seasonally?
I drop pieces whenever. The last big release was “Leisure” and more recently the new denim line under “Forward”. I try to release as often as I can because I want to keep things fresh and new but going forward I want to keep that up with new releases weekly or monthly. The way that I mainly design I think of what I personally want. I think, “Okay, what am I designing for? What season is it? What’s going to be going on?” and I think that’s the best way to handle it from a business standpoint. Girls want to dress a certain way when it’s New Year’s or when it’s fall, so you have to think about when you’re going to be selling your clothing.
The models you use are diverse as far as silhouette and tone. Do you have an underlying message you’re portraying? Where do you find your models?
I definitely like to push the narrative that women of color and “black girl magic” are representations of Matte Brand even down to the color choice; that’s one reason why I consistently stock all of my pieces in chocolate because that’s our nude. It looks good on us. I love the fact that my models can feel beautiful, like for example one of the last models named Tatiana, she’s really pretty. She works at Brandy Melville at The Grove. I saw her one day and said, “OMG you should model for Matte,” and she had actually bought from Matte before so it was perfect! She never modeled before but she’s so gorgeous, and she’s even from New York and she’s tall, and I was just wondering how she hasn’t been discovered. From there she was in the Bryson Tiller video shoot, getting more into modeling by building her book, and contacting modeling agencies. I just love the confidence that Matte shoots give to the girls a lot of the girls say that they’ve never had a photoshoot where they have their hair and makeup done and it allows them to see themselves in the same light as other models. This way they can believe in themselves a little bit more and I notice more brown girls will send me images of them wearing Matte and I think it’s cool. I think more and more brands are starting to embrace it whether it’s by my influences or because things are changing and people are starting to appreciate color more so I definitely want to incorporate brown girls in my campaign.
I love that. What is in store for the future of Matte?
[Laughs] I’m over here stressing about that right now. I have super high goals that’s what keeps me going like #goals. Every year since I started Matte I created goals for myself and they’ve multiplied by life four by the next year. So, I’m trying to meet this crazy goal for this year and then I have an even crazier goal for next year. I’m definitely always trying to think of ways to expand the brand and business but I’m just trying see. For me, it’s important to find a good production company that can manufacture all these ideas I have in a timely manner and there is still a lot that I have to learn if I want to meet my goal of like multi-millions [Laughs].
You’ll make it. You’re on the right track you just have to keep with the same momentum.
Thank you! I really appreciate it!
Stay tuned to Milk for more trendsetting New Yorkers.