PORTAL 1: Meet The Global Gatekeeper Of Hype + Curator Of Connections, Matthew Growney

PORTAL 1: Meet The Global Gatekeeper Of Hype + Curator Of Connections, Matthew Growney

 

Matthew Growney is not your average operator. He has been called “The Gatekeeper Of Hype” and “The Curator of Connections" from more publications than can be name-dropped. Besides, namedropping is so, like, 2021 anyway. If fashion taught us anything, it's that last year is out. Culture, be it the pop kind or the sub variety, repeats itself roughly every 20 years of so. It's very cool to be 20 years ago (see: every current trend in pop culture from the aesthetic to the reinvigorated slang.) but you simply don't want to be last year.

You want to be the future.

Growney has always been the future because in no small way, he has had a gifted hand in crafting just what the future will look like.

From the galleries & events at Art Basel in Miami to the showrooms of New York City, Growney has been a driving force in converging the opulent & heritage luxury with the ballsy swagger and the unabashed creativity of the streets for the last 20 years.

GROWNEY & TREVOR "GUCCI GHOST" ANDREW AT COMPLEXCON.

Unrivaled is his proximity to cultural disruptors like art protege- Father Steve, "GUCCI GHOST"- Trevor Andrew, LVMH Prize Semi-Finalist Siberian-born designer- Maria Jahnkoy, brilliant contemporary artist- Maggie Stephenson, former Premier League and USMNT player-turned-menswear designer- Danny Williams, Peloton-wunderhunk- Adrian Williams, to NFL Star-now-media boss- Brandon Marshall. From his super model cousin- Ansley Gulielmi, Miami-nightlife king- Jake 'Inphamous' Hermelo, NASCAR driver & budding motosport superstar - Kaz Grala, Hip Hop Star- MadeInTokyo, to the millennial generation's own culture beacon and NY streetwear "it-kid' designer Max Siegelman, Growney has worked to connect and transact creative currency with them all. And sure, he's also worked with a ton of the more traditional 'fashion' brands of the European, luxury house variety.

 

 

His ongoing success driving PUMA’s NYC customization space comes with the rare perks of seeing product and personalization trends early. He was an early advisor in (now) ecom fintech giant QuadPay, and serves on multiple advisory boards of entities that blend creative & the business of fashion in equal doses including LA's luxury streetwear label- Daniel Patrick, high-tech footwear brand- REZA, and the young women's sportswear brand- INFKNIT.

 

Growney has lived an immense life thus far, and with that, he just knows things most never will, and for the first time ever, he's dropping the veil with me in our chop up.

His newly formed consultancy, the Boston-based Thermal Brands boasts a roster of wildly talented next gen street-to-luxe designers hand-picked by Growney himself including one of this year's most revered designers at the last NYFW, No Sesso. He has worked on various projects with French luxury behemoth Kering Brands Group (Gucci, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent, Brioni, Alexander McQueen & Bottega Veneta) and has developed his own highly impactful & unique role for global footwear giant PUMA at the intersection of fashion collaborations, experiential activations, and innovative partnerships.

 

PUMA X YOU : GROWNEY'S CUSTOMIZABLE FLAGSHIP IN NYC LEADS THE CHARGE INTO THE FUTURE BY HOSTING INTERACTIVE DESIGN WORKSHOPS AMONG CONSUMERS, ARTISTS, DESIGNERS, AND BRANDS.

All of this comes with access you simply cannot buy. With Fashion Week season upon us, I recently sat down with MG himself in his studio in Concord, MA to allow you all to get to know each other, and bring you the insider’s guide to one of the most heralded events on earth, Paris Fashion Week.

 

Interview starts now. There are so many wisdom gems along the way, I'd suggest you take notes.

 

AX: You're kind of the new wave of jet setter, someone who travels a hell of a lot for more reasons than "just leisure." There's purpose and cultural depth to the punched ticket. In the process you have turned into both a gatekeeper and tastemaker in various luxury industries, spoke at events and given TED Talks, and been the man behind so many stellar brands and creations. What keeps that drive stoked?


MG: I’m not sure I’m on the ‘new wave’ of jet-setting, but I have been flying across the world regularly since 1999. I’ve enjoyed meeting fascinating people from all over. I always thought about how integrating cultures into fashion could be as compelling as how we’ve used the word ‘fusion’ cuisine. It seemed that people from outside of the US were happy to try different things in fashion, art, music and I loved discovering it each trip in vastly different nation

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LOUIS VUITTON'S RECENT PFW RUNWAY SHOW, ENTITLED "A WALK IN THE PARK' FEATURING THE VISIONARY WORK OF THE LATE, GREAT VIRGIL ABLOH.

AX: So what do you actually do day-to-day that allows you to build all of these unique relationships and connections into commercial moments?


MG: I design creative opportunities between brands, artists, designers, and any impactful party that is looking to offer something commercial to the marketplace. Most people call these "collabs" and others call them partnerships. They manifest themselves into licensing agreements, capsules, drops, exhibitions, performances. Whatever the creative direction, my job has been to put culturally-relevant combinations together to tell a product or brand story. I have done over 120+ co-creative projects over the past six years in just about every medium. And many of these discussions start in Paris.

 

AX: So it's the culture you're truly interested in, the backstory and soul, more so than the flash of the end product?


MG: Absolutely. Today, I seek out super early artists, intimate parties, restaurants, exhibits, obscure pockets of culture where you are almost guaranteed to discover something or someone new. These micro discoveries is what I am super passionate about and how I may bring them into new parts of the larger lifestyle and luxury cultures.

Parisian subculture convergence dictates the flow of mainstream pop culture in non-linear ways for well over the last century.

PARISIAN SUBCULTURE CONVERGENCE DICTATES THE FLOW OF MAINSTREAM POP CULTURE IN NON-LINEAR WAYS FOR WELL OVER THE LAST CENTURY.

AX: Paris has had your attention since you were a teen. What is it about Paris that locked you in?

MG: I first discovered Paris when I visited at 8 years old. It was a more typical tourist trip with my family, but I remember the shopping and style and time taken by people to sit, eat, drink, and smoke. The café culture was eye-opening coming from America where everyone was too busy to do anything but drive around in huge gas-guzzling American cars. When I moved to St. Germain-En-Laye at 10 years old to live with a French family, I became obsessed with the culture. My French mom was a stunning blonde woman who as I can recollect would vacuum the house in a black laced bra and a black silk pencil skirt like something right out of Coco Chanel’s closet.

 

 


AX: Was there one particular thing or experience that hooked you?

MG: I tried so many different things from wearing undiscovered brands like Le Coq Sportif to eating cous-cous, the Nutella sandwiches, and Orangina. There was always a freedom for French kids to walk to school en masse, shop at the candy store on the corner, wear whatever you wanted, and innocently flirt with the pretty French girls over crepes. Seemed like parenting was so laid back, the streets were alive with amazing fragrance from the Boulangeries, perfumes, and tobacco. And every time I returned, the memories of French culture became more long-lasting, impactful, and visceral until I clerked as a law student at La Defense outside of Paris in 1999 and felt like it was truly a home for me. I knew where everything was already.

 

AX: What's your recent endeavor at Paris Fashion Week, and the event as a whole, really say about where culture lives? And where it’s heading?

MG: PFW is a cultural moment that transcends nationalities and generations/ages. Think about what other event people in their 20’s and 50’s can equally thrive, succeed, learn. Coachella? Nah. Too young. Too reckless. Kentucky Derby? Art Basel- maybe. Superbowl? Nope.

PFW is the resetting of culture each year. From the large global brands, to young artists, to celebrities, to the buyers, to the vast supporting echo-system (hotels, restaurants, transportation that service the PFW crowd), it is the moment where everyone takes a collective minute to see what their next year will look and feel like. It will continue to grow in its importance as lines blur in ‘fashion’ to include other luxury goods like food and beverage and beauty. Why wouldn’t anyone with a luxury brand not want to avail themselves of the PFW crowd to test their business concept?

PFW IS A RESETTING OF THE CULTURE THAT GROWNEY IN NO SMALL WAY DICTATES.

AX: What's the REAL Paris Experience? Everyone knows the museums and Eiffel, and more recently PSG's Le Parc des Princes (Good job with Neymar x PUMA, by the way.) and trendy streetwear boutiques, describe the best Paris insiders experience from morning to night:

MG: A typical day for me during PFW starts at 7:00 with a run from my hotel that sends me into the Louvre, and then down one side of the Seine on the Rive Droite to the Place du Trocadero where I cross the Pint D’Ilena to the Eiffel Tower. and then run back up the Rive Gauche towards the Pont Royal and cross back into Tuileries and head home.

At 8:45 I go next door to Pâtisserie du Café de l’Olympia for a café crème and hit the road on foot to showroom meetings. First stop is the beautiful Tomorrow Showroom - four floor locale housing some of the most forward thinking brands like A-Cold-Wall and young brands like Jahnkoy, who I now manage, and other favorites of mine like Perks and Mini as well as Maisie Wilen.

 

GROWNEY & RHUDE DESIGNER/FOUNDER RHUIGI VILLASENOR TAKE A MOMENT TO POSE IN THE EMPTY STREETS OF TORINO, ITA.

11am we then head into the Marais back across the Seine into the 4ieme and visit emerging brands like Keiser Clark, Who Decides War, Mr. Saturday. This year, I plan to catch up with emerging brands like Mouty and Paradoxe whom I've seen from across the Atlantic with admiration for what they've done so far.

 

KEISER CLARK'S LATEST COLLECTION FOR SS22, A BOTTLED LIGHTNING DESIGNER DRIVEN HOUSE GROWNEY HOLDS IN HIGH ESTEEM.


AX: So is it all business all day?

MG: In Paris, it can never be “all” of any one thing. Once I’ve done some business, I like to grab lunch around 1:30 at Café Marly, which is sort of a touristy spot, but where else can you eat outside in front of the Louvre's Glass Pyramid? After lunch at 3pm, I head up towards Place de la Vendome and visit the Man | WOMAN showrooms that invites dozens of young designers and brands to have a presence for buyers and possible partners to learn more about them.

MAN|WOMAN Paris- a niche, more subculture driven compendium of designers showing the emerging, the adventurous & the indie avant.

Nichey underground brands are at M|W - but I’m looking for the even smaller newer brands like FDMTL, Myssy, RAVE, and Good Neighbors Shirts.

Dinner rolls around at 8pm and I usually stay away from anything trendy unless it's warranted. I’ve been going to Fellini for several years for its amazing Italian cuisine and wine. Of course, César has become a crazy spot along with the restaurant and bar inside of Sinner Paris Hotel.

 

 

 

MAN|WOMAN PARIS- A NICHE, MORE SUBCULTURE DRIVEN COMPENDIUM OF DESIGNERS SHOWING THE EMERGING, THE ADVENTUROUS & THE INDIE AVANT. 

 

Nichey underground brands are at M|W - but I’m looking for the even smaller newer brands like FDMTL, Myssy, RAVE, and Good Neighbors Shirts.

Dinner rolls around at 8pm and I usually stay away from anything trendy unless it's warranted. I’ve been going to Fellini for several years for its amazing Italian cuisine and wine. Of course, César has become a crazy spot along with the restaurant and bar inside of Sinner Paris Hotel.


AX: Paris is legendary for its nightlife and events. Sure PFW is about fashion, but its just as much about culture, art and entertainment, and so much of that happens after dinner. What’s darkness in the City Of Light like for you?


MG: Nights for me usually consists of attending fashion shows showcasing the brilliant work of my friends like Rhuigi Villasenor of RHUDE, Remi Le Hong formerly of Maison Kitsune and now with Kenzo, Balmain, Alexandre Mattiussi of AMI. There is no shortage of after parties to pull style and music inspo from. This is really the magic. The culture that converges is what to be keenly aware of.


AX: What have you noticed emerging this year - be it style-wise and/or broader stroke culturally?

MG: I saw how much 1990’s Brooklyn was reappearing with the kids. Large varsity jackets, chest rigs, long jewelry, colorful footwear, and obvious departure from the monochromatic trend of the past few years. The 90’s NYC wave is fully back. That will give way to full y2K, which you are now seeing in droves with the younger segment throwing it back to their very early youth. Nostalgia always works, especially if done really well.


AX: So if you were hosting a PFW Insider Edition tour for guys that want the access very few ever get, what would Top 5 Paris restaurants you need to experience be?


MG: Zo (incredibly warm environment with amazing food up near the UK Embassy), Fellini again, although it may seem to be counterintuitive to dine Italian in France, but Fellini is world class and would be in any nation.

Georges, the restaurant Atop the Paris Modern Art Museum with gorgeous 360 views of the city.

Market (Jean-Georges spot that has great food but sans snobbiness), Gambino (wildly low-key spot with amazing pizza), and Café Pouchkine at La Madeleine where it has that quintessential café culture oozing from each waitress and dish. For the view alone, Georges atop the Paris Modern Art Museum is stellar.

GEORGES, THE RESTAURANT ATOP THE PARIS MODERN ART MUSEUM WITH GORGEOUS 360 VIEWS OF THE CITY.


AX: Most interesting place you have to visit that's below the radar and off the path for visitors? Give us a spot that if you’ve walked in, you’re no rookie?

MG: Kiliwatch, for sure. I still love going to Kiliwatch. It’s not necessarily a “DL joint” but it’s a stellar thrifting gem for sherpa and trucker jackets, old boots, new accessories like jewelry and bags. All in a deep multi-room storefront on rue Tiquetonne. The farther back you go, the older and smellier the goods.

KILLIWATCH PARIS, ONE OF THE TRUE INSIDERS FAVORITE HIDDEN GEMS- PART EMPORIUM, PART THRIFT & ALL MINDBLOWINGLY UNIQUE.

 

AX: What lines should the modern man be up on after PFW?

MG: I would say that the modern man shouldn’t sleep on AMI Paris for a tailored beautifully-styled look. Fit is age appropriate, materials are unbelievably plush. Pieces aren’t cheap, but appropriately priced. I'm also happy to share that the AMI x PUMA collaboration that I created was recently announced this past weekend. It will be available in AMI on 3/16 and PUMA on 3/19. Excited to share the AMI brand to a larger global audience. I think the other brand that more fashion risk-goers need to start following is Paradoxe. This young French brand has created some amazing pants and denim using uber-plush and unexpected fabrics, a young straight-leg style, and fantastic product visuals. Their handwritten notes are not lost on customers, especially for orders originating in the US. Just amazing product experience and a more luxurious interpretation of the track pant.


AX: I feel that 'exclusivity' is the new luxury. I’ve been saying it on the fashion front for some time now, and I believe it to be true with a lot of things -  including fashion,art and surely tech. Anyone can buy an expensive shirt, but I feel the context of luxury and the role it plays in culture has changed when supply is so harshly controlled. Thoughts?


MG: Yes, ‘exclusivity is the new luxury’. Not only does it play to the buyer's ego that he/she is getting a 1 of 10 units, but it also amps up the values on the secondary markets like Stock X or Grailed. You can see during PFW how many of the young brands provided small releases of exclusive apparel to influencers or tastemakers because it's cache to memorialize PFW together.

Culture says it's more important for you to be able to memorialize these important moments by collecting limited or exclusive apparel or items and then to be able to go into retail and buy it on any given day.