Sustainability is more than a buzz word for designer and maker Matt Thomson. It’s woven into every fibre of his business.
‘I’ve always been interested in making bags that last, and that’s the first rule of sustainability. If it lasts a lot longer, you don’t need to replace it,’ says Matt, who for nearly 15 years has made beautiful, durable and eco-friendly bags, under the moniker of mattt.
‘Bags are one of those things that people have an emotional connection with. They use it most days. That means people are more willing to buy a quality bag and look after it and repair it. That way, I’m lucky,’ says Matt.
When designing fabric patterns, Matt draws on found objects, including old maps or scans of nostalgic 1950s maths teaching blocks. He also connects with local textiles designers to incorporate their styles into his creations. Nothing is wasted.
‘I source my materials locally because I can have a direct relationship with the people making the fabric. It’s better than ordering stuff in, and it supports local industries. If you don’t support the industry, it won’t be there,’ he says.
Matt set up his industrial sewing machine in the city more than 10 years ago and now makes all his bags to order, which means he no longer needs to carry stock the way he once did when he ran stalls at Melbourne’s designer markets.
Nestled amid artisans in the hive of the Nicholas Building, Matt says that Melbourne is a fertile place to start a creative business with a strong ethos around sustainability.
‘There are people who sell zips and fabric, can repair sewing machines. It makes it possible to do stuff because they have access to these skills. Supporting these businesses and drawing on their expertise is really nice thing to do as well,’ says Matt.
Quiet self-confidence and faith in his point of difference is the way that Matt has built his business. He believes his early years selling at markets have helped to understand what customers want.
‘I started making bags when I was studying engineering and industrial design at university. I joined a vintage scooter club and I needed bags to take away on weekends. Then I started making bags for friends. It was a hobby that grew organically, talking to customers, getting ideas,’ he says.
Matt’s business was one of 42 recognised with a bronze Lord Mayor’s Commendation in August 2015. mattt can be found at the Nicholas Building, 37 Swanston Street Melbourne in room 5, level 3.