Lucian Matis_alexbrowne_PRODUCT-1Fashion designer Lucian Matis is a busy guy. Since being named runner-up on Project Runway Canada in 2007, he’s focused on creating a couture and ready-to-wear fashion house worthy of international recognition.

This year, Matis is adding homeware to his growing design business. The line will debut this fall with an emphasis on soft furnishings: throws, bedding, and pillows. “I want a dish towel that makes me smile,” he says. Many of the products, he has test-driven himself to ensure that the right shape and texture is conveyed through his products.

There are three characteristics that define Matis’s work: his attention to detail, his passion, and his ability to highlight the best feature. Matis has an innate eye for emphasizing an individual’s qualities, and he enjoys working with clients one-on-one. “Some women find that they don’t have a style or a stamp, [but] they want to find [one.] I help them find that.” He loves matching the personality of a client to a colour and fabric. “I use colour because it accentuates their personality.”

He also listens to the fabric. Fabric can tell you what it’s willing (or not) to do. “I work with the fabrics. They tell me how to manipulate them. That’s why my job becomes so easy because the fabric tells me what to do with it.” He laughs. “Between the work the fabric does for me and the work my team does for me, there’s not much work left for me!” But indeed there is. Matis would love to create more collections for both men and special capsules.

Much of Matis’s creativity comes from his day-to-day life. His first collection debuted at the L’Oreal Fashion Week. The Black Collection was influenced by his experience on Project Runway Canada and the emotional aftermath. To design it, he left Canada partly to avoid media attention. He spent the winter in Asia, where it was “bitterly cold and so gloomy.” Matis travels a lot both for business and pleasure. “I love to travel but I also love being home,” he tells PRODUCT. He gets inspiration from the colour palettes of the countries that he visits, such as India and Italy. “Nobody does colour like India,” he explains. His attention to detail, he reveals is a product of his upbringing in Romania. Because of its Communist past, Matis says it was “challenging to get inspired by other places [living in Romania].” He uses old-world techniques like macramé and crochet because he recognizes how valuable they are for creating beautiful details. “A lot of western designers are now [designing with these techniques], because it’s so detailed.”

Matis has one piece of advice for design students: intern. One learns very quickly whether the business of fashion is for them when given the opportunity to experience the long hours and hard work. “You have to dedicate your life to [fashion],” Matis explains. “It’s not a 9 to 5 job. Sometimes my creativity comes at 10 o’clock at night.”

Matis’s dedication has turned him into a world-class designer. He’s come a long way from being named runner-up on a TV show. It just goes to show you that you needn’t take first place to be the real winner.