DANIEL W. FLETCHER
While navigating a political landscape as treacherous as 2018’s is, one young, British designer stands alone in using his fashion to spread a message. Daniel W. Fletcher speaks on the evolution of his design process and why he’s bringing politics to the catwalk.
Helming from the north of England, menswear designer Daniel w. Fletcher is the man making waves (quite literally) when it comes to British fashion. As a graduate from London’s prestigious London College of Fashion - which made icons of Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow - his eponymous brand continues to establish itself as one of the most promising up-and-coming menswear labels on the scene right now. With an instantly recognisable aesthetic which nods towards British heritage, the designer is gaining prestige for the political undercurrent to his designs, which make subtle social commentary on everything from Brexit to Trump.
As he winds down following another successful show at London Fashion Week Mens (where he packed out The Institute of Contemporary Arts), we grabbed a moment with Daniel to talk about his evolution from small-town Northerner to rising star of menswear design. RC: Do you want to start by telling how you first
got interested in fashion… DF: I never considered it as a career path until I was much older. I kind of decided that I was going into fashion when I was in my art foundation, so I went all through school thinking I was going to be an actor - that’s what I really wanted to do. I was applying for drama schools when I was 18, I was in three shows at the same time and it was really stressful. I thought, actually, I don’t think I want to do this forever! I took a year out and then went and did art foundation after that then I knew I wanted to do fashion!
RC: Is there anyone you were inspired by from a fashion perspective when you were younger?
DF: Is it really cheesy to say my mum? My mum loves shopping and dressing up! Maybe you saw her at the show on Sunday? She was wearing a floor-length black and white mohair coat. I would always go on shopping trips with her, but it was in a very different way to what I’m doing myself, but I remember those things did have an impact. RC: So into with menswear that in rather mind, than how womenswear? come you went
DF: At womenswear, one point I then did think my tutor I was suested gonna do trying enjoyed a it, menswear it made so project much more and sense I really to me. envisage I was myself designing wearing. clothes I think that if you I could have a become personal something connection nicer. to clothes, then they
RC: How would you describe your own design aesthetic?
DF: I would say it’s modern but with a nod towards British heritage.
RC: And from where do you draw inspiration from the most?
DF: I think traditional British menswear is actually where a lot of it comes from. And if you see the collections, the pieces are really recognisable, like a field jacket or a trench coat, or a mac or pajama shirt, or like a fisherman jacket. They are things that you might have seen in old books, or that people are still wearing today, in brands like Burberry and Macintosh and it’s just using these classic items, but I’m taking these wardrobe staples and making them into something new.
RC: Sometimes there’s a bit of politicism in your collections - what is the thought process behind that?
DF: There have been a lot of these political statements in the collection that have just come about by accident. I’ve been doing the label for the past two years, and we’ve been hit with - one after the other - these shit political storms and it has kind of felt natural to talk about those things, and I’ve got a platform that people listen to. It’s my way of expressing myself, so if something is happening, like Brexit, then I want to talk about these things.
RC: Do you familiarise yourself with LGBTQ issues, politically?
DF: Yeah, definitely. I think as a gay person, I’m always drawn to the stories in the news and all that’s going on. It’s my community and I should be involved in it and talk about it.
RC: Do you think that LGBTQ issues could ever appear in your own work?
DF: Absolutely! There’s a cap actually in the last collection, which said OUT on it and I did want the word to be quite ambiguous. It could mean anything; it could mean out of the closet, Donald Trump out. I didn’t specifically know what it was, I just kind of did this OUT cap.
RC: Talk us through your creative process; how does an initial idea become a complete collection? DF: Normally what I do is, at the start of the season, I will go to the library, go to museums and get a feel of what this collection could actually be about.
Last season, these paintings became a starting point. I did them actually for no reason. I had a really busy time and needed to do something with my hands and not just be on the computer, so I thought that’s what that collection should be about. It should be about expression and freedom and doing something because you want to do it, not because you’re in the system. So then that became a starting point for the collection and then they became prints, and I started thinking about how I can make a collection that reflected this freedom of expression and ability to change things.
I will then have a day with a stylist, and I will try loads of things on, and start to make a selection, like ‘OK, this is what I think the collection is about’. Then I start designing from that, so that’s when I’ll start drawing and developing samples, and also I’ll arrange plans.
There’s certain things you have to do to make a collection. If you’re going to do 12 looks, then you’re going to need at least 12 pairs of trousers, so I arrange a plan where I look at what I think can be the key pieces.
RC: How do you think you’ve developed since your first collection?
DF: I think my last collection definitely felt a little more sophisticated. I feel like the guys got slightly older and my very first collection felt very boyish, like school boys. This one has elements of that with the striped shirts and like the oversized coats and stuff like that, but there’s also this feeling that he has matured a little bit, and you can see that there’s more suiting, and it feels like more luxury as well.
RC: Do you think that the fashion industry is inclusive?
DF: I mean, I’ve found it very inclusive, but maybe that’s because I’m a gay man, and the fashion industry is kind of dominated by gay men. And I know there’s female friends of mine who work in the fashion industry who do say it is more difficult, and I think that’s really sad. But then, from my perspective, I came from this kind of small town and I didn’t know anyone in the fashion industry. I didn’t have any access to it until I went to university. So, for me, considering all those things, it’s been very welcoming.
RC: And how about with regards to diversity?
DF: I think that is something which is always a problem, like even when we’re casting for the show. I would like to have a really diverse cast and I think we really achieved it this season, but in prior seasons, we kind of struled because actually the agencies weren’t sending enough non-white models. I had a really good casting director, and she’s all about diversity, and she was like, ‘What’s going on? Why are the agencies not scouting these models? There’s equal amounts of non-white boys in this country, how is it that they have just 90 percent white boys? That’s crazy to me.’
RC: Finally, for people who are looking at this feature - and the clothes - can you give a bit of a context about what the clothes represent?
DF: This is a summer collection and I was really thinking about British summer. You have all these stripe prints, bodysuits and swimsuits, and it was like a 1950’s summer holiday. That’s why you have these striped prints that look like they’ve been scratched out and stretched back out, or layered over these sort of wrestling suits put with something quite unexpected like a really simple trench coat where the front panel is kind of longer than the back panel. It’s something that’s really identifiable, but then something really unexpected as well.