We had the good fortune of connecting with Matthew Bell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matthew, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
Be authentic. Be yourself. Trends, publicity, and styles will all come and go – life is cyclical. But, if one stays true to their unique frequency they remain at the center of the wheel and enjoy life’s wild ride.
So no matter what happens, be yourself.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art is a reflection of the inter-weaving and overlapping stories, cultures, and people that make up my local community. We all come from diverse backgrounds and influence one another in some special way. Salvaging vintage articles of clothing and reimagining how they work together is a really fun creative process that reinforces my roots in community and environmentalism. It’s amazing to think who wore these clothes before, what narratives they would tell, and how their story sews into my own.
Each pair of pants and bags I make are all entirely unique and one-of-one creations. Many hours of design, reconstruction, and hand embroidery goes into making these pieces special and full of personality. I believe it is important to know the people responsible for making what you consume – food, clothing, entertainment. To understand where someone is coming from, what their message is, and how they impact our shared Earth adds to the tapestry the artist is attempting to weave with their work. At least that’s what I strive to do.
Getting into the fashion industry and focusing my artistic expressions exclusively on fabrics happened completely by accident. Shortly after my twenty-fifth birthday I developed an autoimmune disease that flipped my whole world upside down. I had to quit my job, give up my dog, and completely rearrange how I lived. One of my symptoms was weight loss. I lost 35 pounds and that was the driving force that led me into Nicola’s Tailoring and Alterations and set me off on the wild trajectory of where I am today. It was not always easy, but Nicola’s guidance and support have greatly influenced my development and soul as a loving human being.
Lessons: Be patient with yourself. Love yourself. Laugh at yourself. And most importantly – relax and don’t take things too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, work hard, but do not drive yourself mad trying to control that which is out of your hands. Do your work, set it to the wind, and it will come back to surprise you beyond your wildest dreams.
Lastly, my brand is about LOVE, being of service to my local community, and feeding those around me. I want the world to know that we each have our own personal story to tell. Mine happens to be about re-patching and caring for the environment we as a society have worn thin by our poor fashion practices and habits. Its a long road, but with mindfulness, we can change our ways and thrive in the present.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Venice Beach and Santa Monica. I grew up in Santa Monica and these two places are like my backyard. I’d start the day with a dip in the ocean, brunch somewhere chill, afternoon nap, walk or bike around town, dinner, and somewhere to listen to live music. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I wouldn’t be here without God, my parents, and my friends and extended family.
But most importantly, I would have never learned to sew had it not been for Nicola El Habr. I walked into Nicola’s Alterations in West LA in desperate need of having some pants taken in. When I returned a few days later to pick up my altered pants I jokingly asked if he would teach me how to sew. He responded, “Sure why not.” He welcomed me into the back of his tailor shop, pointed to a machine by the window and said, “There, that’s your machine.”
I have been going in ever since to learn and work alongside an absolute master. He is 73 and has been doing this since he started an apprenticeship in Lebanon at the age of 12.
Other: Look at the stars – we’re all up there somewhere!