Jun 2, 2022
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Matte Projects announces new 'Originators' platform

Jun 2, 2022

​Don Draper would be experiencing some serious FOMO if he wasn't fictitious.

The stereotypical 1960s Madison Avenue creative director and protagonist of Mad Men, would have a field day in 2022 where the worlds of physical, digital, and the metaverse converge in advertising, marketing, and content. In these three worlds, Matte Projects manifests its creative storytelling projects. The agency, founded in 2011, has recognized and cultivated the talent community crucial to their work as the medium shifted from IRL (in real life) to online.

Enter the 'Originators', a global creative community that draws visual artists, creative directors, photographers, filmmakers, chefs, writers, and painters who work alongside the agency developing campaigns and projects that spotlight hype, narrative, and design.

Matt Rowean - Matte Projects

​Matte Project is led by Matt Rowean, chief creative officer and partner; Max Pollack, co-founder and managing partner; Brett Kincaid, founding partner; Francesca Valente, head of talent; and Tom Lee, creative director. FashionNetwork.com caught up with the team via email to break down what these "creatives-behind-the-creatives" do.

Anyone who followed the work of Ye and Yeezy in the last two-and-a-half years has seen Matte Projects' work; i.e the Donda album launch and Yeezy X Gap.

In December of 2021, according to Rowean, the firm shot the first-ever live concert in IMAX with Ye and Drake at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The firm is known for its work in the luxury sector as well.

Ye X Drake IMAX concert - Matte Projects

"On the services side, this is so constant it's hard to single out one. Next week, we are doing an event with Givenchy, work a lot with Bottega Veneta, and just completed a very cool event with Mark Ronson and Audemars Piguet that involved Originator Director Andre Bato," said Rowean, adding, "On the Matte IP side, our next big project will be during NFT.NYC in June."

A good example of their scope of production for a luxury company is Cartier. A marquee experiential event was the French jeweler's Haute Joaillerie Gala featuring glittering jewelry in an expansive glasshouse on Governor's Island in New York City with a performance by Stevie Nicks. They also worked with the jeweler on Met Gala imagery of bold-face names wearing the high jewelry and their work for Cartier has earned them Clio Awards. For Gucci they’ve created experiences at Art Basel Miami.

The Cartier Haute Joaillerie gala - Matte Projects

Matte hopes to make household names of these Originators versus other talents who, in the past, were tucked behind the scenes.

"Another shift [in the agency] has been our belief in putting talent front and center, one reason for starting Originators. Our industry's 'old way' was to protect your source, keep talent behind the scenes mainly out of fear of poaching or that clients didn't like the concept of talent that wasn't in house," continued Rowean. 

​Pollack described the evolution of the typical creative agency to a brand in this way. "We're now at Creative Agency 3.0. 1.0 was just getting it started, building the skills of production, curation, and design. 2.0 was producing, becoming masters of the craft, and creating award-winning campaigns, Emmy nominated documentaries, and massive experiences around the world. Now at 3.0, it's moving beyond a creative agency that produces amazing work and into Matte being the platform," he explained.

Rowean, Pollack, and the rest of the team are breaking the mold by cultivating top creator talents and giving them a direct voice with clients.

"Originators help establish the look, feel and purpose [of a project] and holistically produce from digital to content to experience. It's an ecosystem model of creativity that we're trying to propagate," added Pollack.

Max Pollack - Matte Projects

"Originators is a new way to put talents in the spotlight and support the creation and promotion of original content. Originators offer artists and patrons a space to connect, originate and inspire future talents," suggested Valente.

Lee feels standing out from the crowd is crucial to be an Originator. “The criteria is originality. In this industry, qualities like imagination, craft, cultural acumen are almost par for the course. Putting something legitimately and distinctly original into the world is a step beyond that and its value cannot be overstated,” he believes.

Suppose one considers the typical creative director and client role, especially in the context of working photoshoots. In that case, Matte Projects breaks down the hierarchy that kept many on the team from adding to the vision.

Perhaps the most known of the inaugural batch of Originators is DJ and producer trans woman Honey Dijon who has appeared in campaigns for both Bottega Veneta and Calvin Klein and laid the tracks for Kim Jones' shows for Louis Vuitton.

Honey Dijon for Bottega Veneta it's Honey Dijon - Davit Giorgadze

Wunderkind young chef Flynn McGarry makes the list, as well as designer, activist and academic, and leading expert on indigenous technologies, Julia Watson.

Others, such as Benjamin Gordon and Oscar Zabala, come from more traditional agency roles. 

"Benjamin was one of our first 'proof cases'. He had been our digital creative director for years before going off on his own to pursue a true arts direction; we wanted to support that in every way possible. Bringing him on as one of the artists at Matte Black and providing him a budget to showcase his work and perform live was a full-circle moment for us," said Rowean.

Oscar Zabala worked for Matte as a commercial photographer, 3D artist, and creative specialist.

Matte Projects helped him stage his first fine art exhibit, something Rowean described as "mandatory," and recruited the Matte community to attend.

"Oscar's opening also had great synergy to what we're doing with our web3 platform Matte.Word, where we provided special preview access to our Discord and Black badge holders," he added referring to the members-only NFT art, merchandise collaborations and artist exhibit space in the metaverse.

The IMAX concert hasn't been the only film with which the agency-slash-platform-slash-brand has been involved. They also co-produced the Netflix documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened about the infamous ill-fated island music festival. Had the event not gone belly up and were it sponsored by legitimate luxury and consumer brands; it could have been the type of event Matte Projects would have slickly produced.

According to Pollack, more are on the way. "We have a few original films in development. One is on tokenism in the fashion industry which we're developing with a few Originators. We also are developing a series inspired by Lo-Tek, Julia Watson's monograph."

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