Behind The Artwork – Prototype Seat: design, fashion and art come together in Matteo De Clercq’s project

We interviewed Matteo De Clercq, founder of Prototype Seat, an interdisciplinary project that rediscovers craftsmanship in a modern way.

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11 July 2019

At this precise moment in history, when the umpteenth ingenious project comes out every day, it is difficult to distinguish those with real potential. In our opinion, one of these is Prototype Seat, born from the mind of Matteo De Clercq and developed together with three of his collaborators and friends, Ludovico Liberali, Giorgio Pecchio and Gabriele Petrecca. 

Prototype Seat is an inter-disciplinary project that embraces art, design, fashion, streetwear culture, managing to blend them perfectly into an object that is both aesthetically beautiful and useful and functional that manages to give new life to manual work, craftsmanship: a sitting object that uses a gymnastics ball as support. 

Fascinated by both the idea and the result, we were told by the sex Matteo and his partner Ludovico the details of this project and their plans for the future. 

Tell us about yourself, what is your background, what have you studied and what are your greatest passions?

M: I am from Rome and I moved to Milan to attend university. After the first year of Economics and Finance at Bocconi I decided to change, I went to England to study Business and Management, a faculty with a major in Human Resources. A few weeks ago I graduated and today I can say that if three years ago I had the idea of this project, I would most likely have made different choices. 

L: I also went to university in London, and that’s where I met Matteo. As soon as I saw his project I immediately became interested, I contacted him and we agreed on how we could collaborate. All this happened in November 2018. So, together, we structured the project, from how we wanted to launch it, to distribution, and finally the promotion strategy. 
In these seven months, we have produced three new balloons, in addition to the first one of Stone Island, and we have started to talk to possible future collaborators. At this precise moment we are mapping all the people we want to reach.  

How did the idea for this project come to your mind and how was it developed? 

M: The gym ball proposed as a chair is something we have already seen, there are many brands that have done it, some better than others.
I find the ball cool, first of all, because it is a ball and therefore also represents a playful element, for everyone, both adults and children. Secondly, it allows a benevolent, therapeutic session, which allows you to keep your back straight and keep your muscles and abdominals contracted. So, if you sit and work, your abdomen works. 
Then, not even to say, it connects perfectly to the world of streetwear, we simply try to take it to other places. 
To be honest, the real initial input was a Chinese guy, found while I was doing some research on streetwear culture, which takes off from the shoes, takes them apart and creates masks. So the idea of deconstructing something was born. Personally, I’m not a fan of sneakers at all and I think the excitement behind the sneaker is completely wrong. I’m much more a fan of jackets and so I started with what I liked, jackets and clothing in general, and I transformed them. It must also be said that at a design level some garments are better than others because you have to choose carefully the type of fabric that must be elastic, or that can be made so, and that is quite resistant. 
The challenge is always to use a single garment and not to make a patchwork of many items. We try to use all the pieces of a garment, thus maintaining an idea of upcycling behind each project. We’d like to get to the point of taking stock and giving it a new location, a new life through balloons. 
For now, the strategy is to produce pieces, like those we already have, and consider them as gifts, so as to put us in touch with a dozen people. 

L: For the moment we are focusing on creatives, photographers, art designers and people who have actually created products that we can use for our customizations. 

Can you tell us more about what you’ve done until now? 

M: For the moment we have the first, the Proto. Seat Stone Island, followed by the Proto. Seat Adidas. With the third, the Proto. Seat Maurizio Cattelan, we did something a little different. We used an accessory, the scarves from his Museum League collection. We would love to meet him to hand it over to him so that the moment of delivery can be transformed into a moment of meeting and exchange, which is the real final goal of our project, that is to have feedback and build a network. 
The last piece we created, the Proto. Seat Lacoste was requested by Julien Boudet aka “Bleumode”, photographer of the Parisian scene. This was the first real commission, we sent him some initial sketches, he showed us his modifications and so on. Obviously, he chose Lacoste, and as he was a great tennis fan, we tried to include some of this aspect in the product, by inserting a white hinge that takes up the lines of the court. The choice of color is also due to Julien’s great love of Klein’s blue. 

Among the future projects, there is one for Clara Berry, model and brand ambassador of adidas France, with whom we are in contact. We are also in contact with Ji Won Choi, a South Korean/American designer who has created a collection with adidas, who is also very interested in our product. Here, for the two of them who are linked to the same brand, we would like to create two twin products. 

Prototype Seat Matteo De Clerq | Collater.al

Have you ever thought or been asked to use this type of customization on other products? 

M: For the moment ours is still an attempt, so adding a new product to our production now would be a real suicide. First, we want the product of now to become a finished and fixed product. 
Then the fact remains that ours is not a brand, but a project. If we want to take a leap forward from this, evolve and transform ourselves, we can always do so, but we have detached ourselves a little from the idea that opening a brand is easy. We thought of doing something different, but not new because, for example, in Asia, it’s full of people who customize and create custom pieces. 

What are your future plans? 

M: In the short term, so for the next year and a half, we expect a period of seeding in which we make the most balls and aiming to gain visibility and create a network of creatives who can help us. We aim to meet someone so interesting as to promote an exhibition, an exhibition in which we bring fifteen or twenty new balloons. It can be our own event or be part of a larger project. The idea is to make it happen. After that, the goal is to start accepting orders and realizing them, if they are in line with our taste and our idea. In any case, the sale will not take place before December, if things go well. 
Obviously, the priority is to find a primary job, also to learn something useful to apply to this collateral project, to which we will continue to devote time and for which we have objectives. Then, who knows, if it grows, it could become a full-time job. 

Prototype Seat Matteo De Clerq | Collater.al
Prototype Seat Matteo De Clerq | Collater.al
Prototype Seat Matteo De Clerq | Collater.al
Prototype Seat Matteo De Clerq | Collater.al
Prototype Seat Matteo De Clerq | Collater.al
Prototype Seat Matteo De Clerq | Collater.al

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