Chptr & Vrse designer Matthew Salter talks DJs, rosaries & the business of fashion

MATTHEW SALTER 

CEO and Designer of Chptr & Vrse, Brighton, UK

Why I love him: His boldness. He’s taken the cultural iconography of his upbringing and funneled that into bold pieces that stick out from the crowd. He makes clothes you can’t help but want to wear.

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When was the first time you noticed that fashion was something someone created rather than just something you bought and put on?

I’ve always been interested in fashion. At Catholic school, I hated the imprisonment of monotonously wearing a standard uniform, and used to accessorise where possible. I’ve always liked vibrant colours that reflect the way I feel about life; it’s there to show off. I struggled to find in the shops styles that reflected my personality, and wanted something different. This was when I noticed that young men’s fashion was boring and safe, and was crying out for something unique. So I started customising my own clothes. I used to get a lot of attention wearing my designs, most of all from my friend who was a fantastically talented graphic designer. So together we started customising each other’s clothes, and incorporating his designs and graphics.

You turned your passion into an occupation. How did you sort out your business model?

It’s natural when you are walking down the street and someone stops you to say “That top is sick, where did you buy it?” to see an opportunity. We started making unique pieces as bespoke requests using a printing press, even letting people choose the design, then t-shirt style (neck, tightness, etc). But the overheads meant the high prices put people off. We then progressed to take pictures of the design, then get these made up using a company online who would print designs from the photo, and occasionally these would go wrong at cost to us and the quality wasn’t always the best. So we started looking at where we could get these made direct at a factory, and this had minimum quantities so required money. So I guess our growth was organic as we had no choice but to go to the bank for a loan and go mainstream with our business plan.

What was your training in design?

I was an artist, but I’m more of a visionary and sometimes struggle to get my grand ideas into the final line. My childhood friend turned business partner is a graphic designer so he is often the one to put my rough ideas into the fantastic designs you see on the Chptr & Vrse designs. I’ve always had a passion for art and bringing images to life. We were also both into music too, and this really comes across in our work and spawns a lot of ideas, as does our strict religious background which we’ve always rebelled from.

Pieces

With so many interests and inspirations, what is the starting point for you when you’re designing?

Garments are born, always starting with the image in my mind first. I often sketch or paint the design, before my business partner then puts this into illustrator so they can easily be altered and changed. I then sort out the style of the garment and then cross-reference it with the rest of the collection to ensure it is unique but complimentary. The fabric comes last, but is the toughest part. I only want the best for our range, so it’s a tough task sometimes to get the quality of material to match the colour I had in mind. Often I have to sacrifice the colour I wanted to ensure the best possible result for the wearer. I often have to remind myself that they will never know my disappointment as they will have not seen my vision. When particular items don’t sell it can’t be heart-breaking if it wasn’t quite how you wanted it to turn out, and that our fans were denied seeing the intended piece.

There’s a lot of competition out there.

I’ve always maintained I wanted Chptr & Vrse to breathe a breath of fresh air into the industry, to give the flamboyant crowd something new. It’s hard when other brands start copying your ideas, so you constantly have to be inventive. Our designs are always intended to be so unique that they can’t be found elsewhere. I mean where else can you find brands with tongue-in-cheek religious tees with images such as rosaries, naked nuns, DJs and crows flying over graveyards?

From season to season, how do you keep yourself from burning out?

It’s simple: I love what I do. As long as people keep buying, I’ll keep designing, making and getting clothes out there that people can buy. Every sale is a small justification in that people like what I do, and motivates me to go again. That and the millions of designs that fly round my head, eager to get themselves onto the chests of people everywhere. That said, we are taking a short break this AW16 season from the range to focus on our new venture Thomas Gun, but will be back for the SS17 season.

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The internet has changed the fashion industry in numerous ways. How have you utilized it and social media to get your work and your brand to a larger audience?

Fashion has always been daring and unique, but social media and celebrity endorsement are the real game changers in getting the range known out there. To get your product to the youth market is to really harness what defines that generation. Today social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat is the direct way to showcasing what teens could want. This is not only crucial to success, but gives rise to marketing via the channels through advertising and endorsement deals. A blogger with a 100,000 following is now a more valuable marketing tool than most advertising channels due to the demographics of their followers.

Fashion blogs and style bloggers are front row at Fashion Week, something that didn’t happen ten years ago. Ten years from now, what do you hope the fashion industry looks like/is headed?

People will always need clothes, and the exciting thing about the world at the moment is everyone is having a real confidence to show off their uniqueness. Fashion is not just about the catwalk, but about what people are wearing. There is nothing braver out there now than urban streetwear, particularly from France, that is really embracing the destroyed and distressed look. Who knows where fashion will go, certainly as everyone tries to be more unique and stand out from the market. I think social media will continue to be the marketing drive, but a lot will hinge on who the teen market look up to. I don’t doubt reality TV and pop stars will continue to be big influencers.

What was it like the first time you saw someone wearing your designs in real life?

I remember when we first saw a stranger wearing one of our tee’s in a club and we had to look twice. It was a mix between immense pride and wanting to high five each other at how cool it was.

FAST FASHION FACTS

My aesthetic in five words: Music, religion, colourful, style and cool.
My client is… the fearless well-dressed modern man who may also seek the bad-boy image. We are still those school rebels at heart. Our target range is men 16-40 who dare to be different.
My dream client is…David Beckham, a stylish and the quintessential Englishman. He already has a religious scene as a tattoo, so maybe we can work together putting that into a Tee.

To get your hands on Chaptr and Vrse, head over to www.thomasgun.com!

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