ONE LOOK IS ALL IT TAKES to be completely enamoured with Aussie fashion label, ‘Something Very Special‘. The bright, eclectic and whimsical collection of tees and sweaters and tailoring has developed somewhat of a cult following since its 2021 birth, and leading the laidback revolution is none other than artist and designer Matty Bouris, along with his long-term partner, Ainsley Hutchence.
Together, the duo are creating a brand that is “a little bit tongue-in-cheek and a whole lot of sex appeal”, and one that will never be limited by a gender label; its an Australian fashion story we love to see.
For this week’s Five Fits With, Matty Bouris discusses with Esquire growing up on the surf coast in the 90s and 2000s where surf culture was everywhere— and how Aussie brands like ‘Insight’ helped inform his artistic vision in the years to follow.
Thanks for joining us, Matty! It’s a pleasure to have you along for our ‘Five Fits With’ series. As we do, can you start by telling us a bit about your childhood and where you grew up?
I was very blessed to grow up in Noosa, one of the most beautiful parts of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. We did a quick stint in Sydney for a few years when I was 5 years old then made it back to Noosa where my childhood was pretty much surfing and more surfing!
So as a ‘surf kid’ growing up in Noosa in the late 90s, what was considered ‘stylish’ or ‘cool’ in town?
Honestly, it was all about the surf brands & Levi’s jeans, but once we started listening to music and really diving deep into the punk / hardcore scene, long Dickies shorts, studded belts, long socks and Vans became the staples.
What was special to you about home?
Home was special because of the laid-back vibe and perfect year-round weather, but this could also be a blessing and a curse. The small town mentality could at times soften your creativity, and in other ways, it would let you dream big about what else was out there.
Where do you call home nowadays?
As soon as I turned 18, I packed my car with surfboards, clothes and art supplies and drove to Bondi, NSW in 2002 where I lived for 16 years. I met my love Ainsley Hutchence and moved back to Sunshine Coast in 2018 for five years. Then finally, we made the move to Byron Bay which is now our current base.
Do you remember when it was that you first fell in love with fashion and design, Matty?
I do! It was straight out of school in 2001, I worked at the Billabong store in Noosa where I developed a deeper appreciation of clothing and how there were merchandised in-store. I remember this one denim jean campaign they released which used sandpaper for swing tags and encouraged shoppers to use the sandpaper to add customised distressing to the garments. I got quite good at it and loved customising my own clothes from ripping up jeans and screen printing onto vintage tees. I soon moved to Bondi during the early days of Ksubi and Insight—these two brands definitely opened my eyes to Sydney’s fashion and design scene.
And what informs your fashion choices today? What inspires it?
I would say that my style is mostly inspired by art and sport these days.
Growing up, you’ve worked with some pretty big labels like RVCA, O’Neill and Insight. What did you learn from your experience with these surf brands?
I met the RVCA crew when I worked at Monster Children through the skate art scene they pioneered. It was the early days of RVCA when it was just being introduced to Australia. I loved this experience so much—being surrounded by all of my favourite artists. We were able to grow the brand by printing a lot of the art graphics for General Pants Co. locally. Five years later, I found myself at O’Neill where I worked on the international design team in Amsterdam.
Fast forward four years, I was offered the job at General Pants Co. to head up Insight. In my experience, I learnt a lot about myself as a designer and dealing with corporate structure and creative restrictions. For all of these brands, it was the culture that drew me in and allowed me to discover what I really liked to create as an artist.
Who were your style icons growing up?
Tyler Durden from Fight Club; Dennis Rodman; and guys like Jason Dill & Friends who played in bands.
In your own words, how would you describe what it is you do for work?
I create and design collections from the graphics to the silhouettes and fabrications. I’m even teaching myself the whole Meta digital marketing thing these days, too. I guess when you have your own label and juggle other jobs for clients, you have to wear a lot of hats.
You’re obviously dedicated to the Australian creative industry – what makes it so special (and different) to elsewhere in the world?
I have been lucky to have worked so long in the Australian Creative Industry. I have watched it grow so much and have witnessed so much talent over the years. Living and creating in Australia means I am able to see global trends from a different perspective and create pieces that draw influence from our unique landscapes and culture. I believe the isolation from the rest of the world serves as a blessing when creating—it gives me the space to put my own spin on things.
Can you tell us a bit about ‘Something Very Special’ and how your label came to be?
My partner Ainsley and I had been living and working together side by side in various home office situations every day for other brands for four years. Eventually, we started releasing merch for Ainsley’s Online Platform, Sticks & Stones, as a side hustle. One of our most successful releases was a collection of upcycled vintage sweaters with a very large “Very Special” puff print graphic on the front. The collection sold out overnight and became the final push that we needed to start our own label. Since the “Very Special” graphic worked so well, it only made sense to call it that.
Is it true that you and Ainsley met when you were 15 years old? How did you both meet and what is most special about your relationship?
Ainsley and I both grew up on the Sunshine Coast and so we had a lot of mutual friends and common interests. Back in the late 90’s, there wasn’t a lot to do in the sleepy coastal town and so a popular “Thursday night” hangout spot was the local shopping mall. It was there that we met and developed secret crushes on each other, but it would be 18 years later that we would finally go on our first date! Even back then, we had such similar tastes in fashion and so working together on SVS collections is usually pretty smooth.
In fact, we have a lot in common from our tastes in art, decor, music and friends to our upbringing and values. We also have a similar work ethic which means we understand each other on that level too and both work very hard to achieve our creative goals.
Why do you think ‘Something Very Special’ has grown such a cult following? What would you say is your point of difference as a fashion label?
SVS is truly the product of the coming together of two minds; two different ways of seeing and being in the world—my perspective and Ainsley’s perspective (and then meeting somewhere in the middle). I think its point of difference is that… everything we put out is a balance between the feminine and masculine and not ever limited by a gender label. We have always just followed our gut when it comes to our prints and details and so it is very validating when our following loves our designs.
SVS just released the ‘Protect Your Energy’ collection – what’s the story behind this capsule?
This collection is an ode to chaos and intuition. Starring a guardian angel cradling the word “energy” in block letters, the collection serves as a sartorial armour to ward off bad vibes. Oversized pinstripe blazers, our signature short-sleeved resort shirts, dressy pin-stitched track pants with winter fleece favourites. The name of the collection was stolen from a lady that refused to enter the room at our mutual friend’s birthday party. She was just standing at the door, announcing she really needed to protect her energy so she couldn’t come in. It became the punchline of the night. But the kicker is, she was right. It turned into a fucking weird evening and we all should have protected our energy!
What’s the most practical/functional thing you wear for work?
I would have to say track pants and Birkenstock Bostons. Comfy, cozy and classic. What I really mean is it’s lazy when you work from home. I do dress up some days and I feel like I get different results from my day, so it’s important to mix it up. Hence why we started a resort-street wear label with a focus on comfort!
Where do you draw inspiration from as a designer and artist?
My surroundings, my friends and trips when I can. The more I get out of my little bubble, the more I enjoy being creative. Sometimes it can be an epic series like DAVE on Binge – I highly recommend it!
What are some fashion brands you’re really into right now?
I’m into brands like BODE or Basketcase Gallery or Acne Studios, oh and Alessandro’s GUCCI tend to be my all-time favs!
Do you have a proudest career moment to date?
My proudest moment would be starting our own label in the middle of a global pandemic and pushing through all the self-doubt.
What’s the most sentimental item you own and why is it special?
One of my best friends is a jeweller with a brand called ‘This is Henson’. Shortly after my dog Danger had passed away, he crafted and gifted me a massive pendant with a black opal on the front with “Danger” engraved on the back. I think I might pass it on to my next dog or just wear it myself – RIP Danger.
Check back for another edition of ‘Five Fits With’ next week.
See more of Esquire Australia’s style coverage here.