In 2012 Ilona Hamer was searching for a simple, unadorned black bikini. She was, at the time, working for Vogue Australia. That didn’t help her cause.
“She just couldn’t find anything that was well made and wasn’t embellished or covered in frills,” says Peta Heinsen, Hamer’s sister.
In 2015 the pair – Ilona working as a freelance US-based stylist and fashion editor at New York-based Unconditional magazine, and Heinsen in marketing and media in Sydney – launched swimwear label Matteau.
Pronounced “mat-oh” – like plateau – the label’s name is a portmanteau of the words “matte” and “eau”, the French word for water. It’s fitting for a label that has gained a global following for its minimalist, largely monochrome bikinis and one-pieces. Designed between Sydney and New York, Matteau has an instantly recognisable aesthetic: classic shapes given a contemporary, clean line.
Now, three years later, the label is stocked on Net-a-Porter (NAP) – the world’s premier luxury-fashion online retailer.
And in March, Matteau’s very tight ready-to-wear capsule collection will also join its swimwear on the site. The capsule will be available exclusively through Net-a-Porter and Matteau’s website.
“When we launched with swim we started with a maillot [one-piece], three tops, three briefs – in three colours – and kept it really, really simple,” Heinsen says. “When we launched ready-to-wear it was more about, ‘Well, what do we wear to the beach?’ and so much of what we wear is those plain, neutral colours. We don’t want to overcomplicate anything.”
And overcomplicate things they do not. The capsule features just three pieces in 100 per cent Japanese cotton: a short-sleeved shirt; a long-sleeved shirt; and a spaghetti-strap ankle-length dress, all in black.
“In terms of the short-sleeved shirt, it was something that both of us seem to be lacking – that great short-sleeved shirt with a little cuff that you can wear with jean shorts or over swimmers,” Heinsen says. “It looks relaxed but elevated … It’s a simple piece that’s really quite difficult to find.
“We also didn’t want to do things that needed to be dry-cleaned – that way a woman that invests in [a shirt] doesn’t have to re-invest every wear to have it cleaned. They’re pieces that can be washed and ironed.”
The announcement of the ready-to-wear collection and affiliation with NAP coincides with the launch of Matteau’s new spring-summer swim collection. As usual, custom-dyed fabrics resurface and signature shapes reign: maillots, triangle-bikini tops and high-waisted briefs in vermilion red and almond. A leopard-like floral print is as decorative as things get.
The colours and tones from John Chamberlain’s crushed cars, Bernard Plossu’s photographs of Mexico in the 1960s, and French artist Caroline Deneervaud inspire the collection, Hamer says. “We don’t really look to trends, it’s more about connecting to colours, textures and patterns that feel right to us at that moment.”
As for the future, expansion will remain a carefully considered prospect. “Responsible growth” is what Heinsen calls it. We may see new ready-to-wear pieces in different colourways, different designs and different fabrics, if the initial collection resonates.
We have a sneaking suspicion it will.
Matteau’s ready-to-wear collection is slated to launch on both the Net-a-Porter and Matteau websites in mid-March. A selection of the label’s latest spring-summer collection is already available on NAP.