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Indigo Matt in San Francisco

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Indigo Matt in San Francisco

February 24, 2012

San Francisco-based designer and creative director Matt Dick is known around town as Indigo Matt—possibly because his hands are perpetually stained blue, or maybe it's because he's frequently attired in an inky-hued kurta.

Matt, who designs uniforms and workwear for happening San Francisco coffee shops and restaurants, is a born creative. During his student years, he spent a summer working at the Nakajima Konya dye works in Saitama just outside Tokyo under the instruction of Nakajima Sensei—a National Living Treasure in Japan. There he learned the secrets of the craft; how to cut traditional stencils and work with mulberry and persimmon resins and natural indigo dyes, which are stored in sunken earthenware vats. We swung by his studio recently to talk fabrics and check out his space; to see more of Matt's work, visit Small Trade Company.

Photography by Mimi Giboin for Remodelista.

Indigo Matt in San Francisco portrait 3

RM: What are you working on now?
MD: I've just finished some denim bags and denim crocheted rugs for the Levi's Made and Crafted line, which Ben Phillips put together. The line is all about the story behind the goods and how they are made. We've also just finished a mechanics jumpsuit, which is part of our collection inspired by the way people go to work around the world: shepherds, farmers, fishermen, and the like.

640 matt dick indigo bag

Above: A quilted indigo tote bag made of cotton from the highland area of China that's dyed with indigo mixed with wild pigs' blood and coated with a lacquer solution made from herbs and egg, which gives it a distinctive sheen.

RM: Where do you source your fabric?
MD: I get all my denim from Cone Mills in North Carolina (my friends at Levi's turned me on to them). I like to source fabrics that are hand-woven, are limited editions, or have a good story behind them. Most come from India, Japan, and Italy, and I also get some from a couple who travels a lot to China and the area between Burma and Laos.

640 matt dick studio

RM: What are your favorite tools?
MD: Clearly I have a scissor problem. I have a collection of different shears; the ones with gold handles are from Kapitol. The large black ones with the brass fitting (third from the top) are from a knife shop in Tsukiji. The other large black scissors are from Sheffield. I also like my Thread Clips from Merchant and Mills.

640 matt dick small trading company

Above: Denim fabric and bundles of uniforms wrapped in cotton (L). Matt commissioned custom hangers (R) for the Shop at Bardessono (see Shopper's Diary: The Shop at Bardessono).

Indigo Matt in San Francisco portrait 7

Above: Matt makes aprons for Sightglass Coffee using waxed military canvas sourced from Martin, the oldest working mill in the United States ("it's been around since 1838"). He's added a leather panel where the apron brushes up against the counter to make it more durable.

640 mattdick wall coverings

Above: A wall layered with inspiration: invitations, gallery openings, museum shops, and pages torn from magazines.

RM: Where did you find the mercury glass light?
MD: It's from an old theater; I took it to Dogfork, and they made it functional again.

640 mattdick diary pens

Above: The Five-Year Datebook from APC, with pens from Kinokuniya (Matt added the indigo tassels).

640 matt dick book shelves

RM: Color-coded books?
MD: I color-code my fabric swatches, my wardrobe, and my bookshelves. It's much easier to find things that way.

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