Clothing Designer and Alumnus Matt Dick Honors Tradition, Looks Forward

Inspiration comes in many forms for designers. But for Matt Dick (Individualized Major 1997) inspiration comes from a simple act that takes place all over the world, every day. “People getting dressed. Everywhere. Then and now. That is what inspires my work.”

Dick is the founder of Small Trade Company, a San Francisco–based workshop and studio, begun in 2010. “We develop products of our own, and we develop projects with other people,” Dick told Station to Station

“I try to keep this space really without parameters. The team works on everything.” His designs are in stores and boutiques all over the world: Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Dallas, and all around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Recently, Dick has collaborated with Levi's XX, the brand’s premium division, and on restaurant uniforms for Blue Bottle CoffeeState Bird Provisions, and Bar Agricole

The famed event designer Stanlee Gatti has gone on record with the San Francisco Chronicle that he calls on Dick “for everything wearable. I just love the ease with which he greets people and situations.”

Pure Creativity

“Matt is just pure creativity,” says renowned graphic designer Michael Vanderbyl, Dick’s former thesis advisor), in the same article. “What I saw in him was the more artful side of [fashion].” Vanderbyl and Dick have collaborated on such highly visible projects as Scarecrow Wine.

When Dick first came to CCA, there was not yet a Fashion Design Program (it was launched the year he graduated, in 1997). So he created his own individualized major, combining courses in Sculpture, Textiles, and Graphic Design. He also attended sewing classes in the theater costume department at Mills College.

Because of the wide breadth of his studies, he became acquainted with a correspondingly wide range of faculty who helped him grow his talents and skills.

“All of the faculty I came into contact with were influential,” he says. “Kathleen Larisch, Michael Vanderbyl, Carole Beadle, Leslie Becker, and David Meckel, to name only a few. Some I still maintain relationships with to this day.”

No Attention to Boundaries

He reports his education at CCA shaped his career. “There was a certain limitlessness to my individualized major, and that definitely has carried through to Small Trade Company. No attention to boundaries. We don’t feel ‘defined’ in what we do here, which is essential. There is a lot of freedom to explore.”

Following graduation, Dick traveled to Japan to study with Yasuo Nakajima, a fourth-generation traditional indigo dyer. The Japanese influence is still a strong element in his designs as well as the prominent use of indigo. “It’s very fragile,” Dick says of this particular pigment. “You can end up with nothing, or you can end up with a masterpiece. That’s part of the fascination.”

Dick has served as an inspiration to not only Fashion Design students at CCA but also to alumni seeking entrepreneurial advice.

In December 2013 he spoke at the Alumni Small Business Panel event, presented by the CCA Alumni Association. When asked to give advice to a young entrepreneur launching a fashion career, he offered the following:

“Be cautious with fashion. Do your best and take your time to do it right and be ethical. Always know your source and exactly by whom things are made.

“And above all, be inspired.”