On the other hand, Whittaker and Howe’s aesthetics are decidedly more Russian constructivist than rural French. The flora and fauna that adorn Matrushka pieces are a tasteful foray into misalignment and juxtaposition – an owl silkscreened to the extreme lower left of a shirttail, a dress with a moose printed across its starkly conflicting geometries. Functionalist articles of vividly cut clothing hang from steel racks above lacquered concrete floors. Consummate metropolitan chic.
In truth, Matrushka might best reflect the nexus between constructivist and rural principles. "Our designs are fabric-driven and comfortable," Whittaker says. "The prices are set purposefully to make couture fashion available to all."
These are the kinds of ideas that the Provencal farmer, the Bolshevik proletarian and the Angeleno fashionista alike can sink his or her teeth into. These are also ideas that speak to one of Matrushka’s broader goals, "To create an environment where ideas and inspiration can converge." From its ceiling-high bookshelf touting titles ranging from After the Green Revolution to Sex Toy Tricks, to its countless war protest window dressings, Matrushka makes it clear that political awareness is every bit as sexy as fashion awareness.
The line that separates fashion from politics is a frayed and fuzzy one it seems. Whittaker espouses a "compassionate capitalism. Being conscious of how things are fabricated, marketed and sold is one of the most important political statements one can make in our day and age."
So, although clothes don’t always make the person, they often intimate their persona. By that maxim, we can deduce the Matrushka-wearer to be well informed, individualistic and smartly dressed. The Matrushka wearer keeps one eye on the cosmopolitan, the other on the community.
To find Matrushka, look along Sunset Boulevard in Silverlake, wedged in between the shuttered Dixifried vintage store and legendary local greasy spoon, Millie’s Diner. Howe and Whittaker maintain a connection with the surrounding community by posting flyers for plays, art and rock shows in their windows and even curating art exhibits and displaying guest designer’s lines in the shop.
Once a month, Matrushka hosts T-shirt nights in which a person, having chosen from a variety of fabrics and images, can watch while a team of builders constructs their own custom tee. In September, Matrushka will also be hosting a political T-shirt night.
With so much discussion of politics, I have to ask Whittaker is asked what she will do come Nov. 3 if elections don’t go as she hopes. "Seek refugee status in France," she says with a laugh. Somehow, I’m not entirely sure she’s kidding.
Matrushka Construction is located at 3528 W. Sunset Blvd. in Silverlake. For more information, call (323) 665-4513 or visit matrushka.com