Surf Shacks 023 – Matthieu LeBlan
/ Mark 02.29.2016
Matt and I would bump into each other along Abbot Kinney Blvd, (Venice) and often talk about surf and how we missed it as we were both slammed at work. We’d talk of the waves we’d had, but would never see each other out at the local breaks, I guess because he was at the ‘Bu establishing his steez on long boards. He has around 5 boards over 10’, and styles on them all (I don’t think he has a board under 8’). We both talked fashion, he had a label, and it was my world too, so the conversations were fun; travel, trade shows, and the industry. Coincidentally then we also both consulted to a surf company and conversations about surf continued. Fast forward to 2 years ago, Matt and Joanne would come to the beach and hang and surf with our crew. Charming peeps. Into style, color and the beach – and he’s always stoked to get a paddle in. Matt’s house is one that’s evolved into an oasis of calm and color, which is going to be a whole lot of fun for their new son Luco Moon, although I’m not sure if it’ll stay calm.
Early memories (and your accent)?
I grew up in Aix-en-Provence and I spent my childhood summers along the Mediterranean Sea in the South, and in Western France surfing and sailing in the Atlantic Ocean. Spending all this time around the beauty of nature taught me to appreciate sun, sand, and sea and I think eventually inspired me to do what I do now. I draw a lot of inspiration from my family heritage. My grandmother had impeccable style and my mother made all her own clothes. I love to look through vintage family photos for inspiration.
What brought you to America, and why LA? You’re really comfortable here now, its evidently home.
Southern California culture never felt too foreign to me because I always saw it portrayed on TV and in movies, magazines, etc. So I was really attracted to that lifestyle, especially the surf culture in LA. When I first moved here, it was the early ‘90s in the midst of the grunge era. I lived with 3 of my best friends in a one-bedroom apartment on Sunset Blvd, and we were supposed to go to UCLA extension classes, but we never even bought our books. We ended up surfing and hanging out on the beaches between here and San Diego.
What’s your history with Venice and your house? How has it changed in the 15 years that you had it?
I love living in Venice because I’m able to be at the beach and surf as much as possible. I love the brightness and energy of the area, and Los Angeles in general. Venice has definitely evolved – I initially liked it because it was truly diverse, where other parts in LA seemed designated for a specific culture or financial status. Unfortunately, that’s changing a little bit but it’s still home and I love it.
When I bought my house, it was in the “uncool” part of Venice. People only wanted to live on one side of Lincoln Blvd. I love my house because I built it with someone from start to finish, and he oversaw each part of the project. If I had hired a regular contractor, it would have been much less personal and more expensive. The concept of my house was really to start with a blank space, and add pops of interest here and there. I also love the light in my place – the sun reflects differently at each time of day. I like that the space feels unpretentious with a minimal aesthetic, but still has a positive/ feel-good vibe.
Tell us about art in your life, it’s an eclectic, curated collection.
Everything I have is really an accumulation of things from flea markets and traveling, or from graphic design projects I did for trade for art galleries. I’ve also collected some beach culture-related pieces from my best friend Benjamin Trigano, who owns M+B Art Gallery here in LA.
I went to school for Graphic Design. I come from a family of artists, so naturally I went in that direction as well. The most obvious way it helps me now is definitely in creating our graphic tees, which is a big part of Sundry. But having a background in art has also allowed me to have control over the creative direction of all aspects of the brand – not just the clothes.
How did you get into fashion? Your mother made you some rad board bags, and has made beautiful clothes for kids too (you gave some to my son, they’re so good!).
Both my parents’ families were textile manufacturers — my mother’s side of the family dealt in exquisite linens and my father’s side were in cotton. I grew up always seeing my mother doing crafty things, from painting and sewing to pottery. She also did some drawings for Hermès scarves. My mother always made clothes for me when I was a kid. I would be playing soccer and wearing socks my mother knits, which didn’t match the uniforms at all! I guess it’s no surprise that I also ended up in a creative field.
Sundry, your label. You started it in Venice, it’s loved by a lot of women…
My background inspires me to create clothing that is bright and beautiful, but also soft and relaxed and easy-to-wear. Each Sundry collection is infused with the essence of the French Mediterranean along with the energy of Southern California. We put comfort and quality at the forefront of each design, I learnt about some of that from my mother. I see Sundry girls wearing our clothes in their everyday lives – at the beach, spending time with family, walking around their neighborhood, or traveling. It makes me proud to see people enjoying life in Sundry clothes, and it also drives me to continue to create for this lifestyle.
Your love of the sea, it seems pervasive in everything you do.
Growing up, I had the chance to be around the sea a lot because my grandparents owned a summer house in Britany. I also sailed with my grandfather a lot, and developed a true love for the ocean. I think loving the ocean is something hard to explain – it’s really a disposition that you get from being around it enough and learning to appreciate it.
When I met you I didn’t realize how passionate you were about surfing, although we’d always talk about it. It’s all around you isn’t it?
I started windsurfing when I was a teenager. There aren’t many waves in the Mediterranean so you resort to windsurfing. I actually got pretty good and ended up being sponsored by a small windsurfing brand in my town when I was 14 or so. They actually let me paint some boards for them, which ended up influencing my decision to go to art school. So it’s interesting how surfing and art fed into each other to inspire what I do now.
Moving to California was an opportunity for me to learn to surf. I can’t imagine my life without surfing now – you have an amazing connection to the ocean, and there’s an anticipation of the elements. You can’t predict exactly what is going to happen next, which is similar to life. I don’t have any interest in the competitive side of surfing; I think it’s more about the lifestyle.
Spending time surfing in California, where the beaches are very crowded, I developed a taste for extremely long boards. My friends are always laughing and saying that my boards keep getting longer, but as I’m not getting any younger it’s definitely something I’ll stick with.
It’s a pretty rad car you have.
Part of the dream of moving to California for me included cars. I spent the first ten years here owning only American-made vintage cars, like Ford Broncos and Thunderbirds. But since I didn’t know anything about mechanics, I had to switch to driving those cars only on the weekends. I love the smell of vintage cars, and the look and feel of them. They’re perfect relics of the past. My car now is something I love to drive. It’s a ’68 Mercedes, a 250SL.