Q&A: Lucian Matis, the guy who designed Sophie Trudeau’s White House wardrobe
Fashion designer Lucian Matis rose to national prominence in an instant on Thursday, when Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau wore two of his designs during her first official visit to Washington: a red and fuchsia floral dress during the day and a beaded purple gown for a state dinner in the evening. The Romanian-Canadian moved to Toronto in 1999, and studied fashion at Ryerson. We spoke to him this morning about how he earned his place in Canada’s most obsessed-over wardrobe.
You’re the most talked about designer in Canada this morning. What does that feel like?
It feels a little bit surreal. We knew Sophie would be wearing our gown during the evening, but we didn’t know she would also wear one of our dresses during the day. We were taken by surprise. I woke this morning to being on the cover of Metro. The day before we were on the cover of the Star. And then we were being talked about in the New York Times. At one point there were four news trucks parked outside our offices. Our landlord came over to see what was going on. He thought there had been a crime.
How did this fashion partnership come to pass? Did the Trudeaus reach out to you directly?
About a month ago I was contacted by Jessica Mulroney, who is Sophie’s stylist. She requested several garments. I didn’t realize it was for the White House. I would have thought she would do something custom for that occasion. In any case, we sent the garments to Ottawa, and then we had a fitting here in Toronto. I grabbed a few other garments to provide a possible daywear look. The red dress was actually something I grabbed off my desk on the way out the door.
Why do you think the purple beaded gown was a good choice for a state dinner?
The dress is very classy. Elegant, but not too stylish, or high-end, or unapproachable. It isn’t a trendy piece. It’s not the kind of thing where you would look back and think, “What was I thinking?” Plus, those bright colours photograph so well.
You met Sophie face to face. Tell me something about her that hasn’t been published in one hundred newspapers.
She is more beautiful in person. She is just—the word I keep using is effervescent. The fitting was very low-key and very fast. I thought we would be there for about three hours, but we were only there for one. We brought twenty samples with us, and as I would bring things out she would say, “Oh, not this cut. Not that neckline.” She really knows what works on her. I’m a first-generation Canadian, so we talked about where I come from, and how I ended up coming to Canada to study fashion.
You mentioned that she didn’t wear a custom-made dress, but instead opted for off-the-rack. Does that send any particular message?
The fact that she can just take a dress from a collection shows that she is very down to earth. Even on glamourous occasions, she’s still focused on being practical, approachable.
What does this kind of exposure mean for a relatively unknown designer?
To be on the international stage, to have everyone paying attention—that is what our brand really needed. Advertising costs a lot of money, and the Trudeaus are the biggest couple in the world. Everyone loves them. We’ve already had calls and orders for both dresses in the tens, if not the hundreds. And I think that’s only going to continue. It really is just amazing.