Denzilpatrick’s latest AW23 collection All Dressed Up & Somewhere To Go reflects a journey of self-discovery and self-actualisation. With a very subdued and sullen campaign, Daniel Gayle invokes a performance of identity as the characters he imagines go out into the world dressed in glamorous clothing imbued with the multi-faceted wardrobes of female family figures.
In this collection, Gayle champions the idea that young men are not only shaped by patriarchy, but matriarchy as well; illustrating how the often-ignored kin-keeping roles of female figures in any family weave themselves into the characters of denzilpatrick. The brand maintains complete transparency about its manufacturing processes and the difficulty of being environmentally conscious in a capital-driven world, prioritising sustainability and originality over trendiness.
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Having just debuted their AW23 collection All Dressed Up & Somewhere To Go, here to talk to us today about their brand is the founder of denzilpatrick, Daniel Gayle. First off, Daniel, what about your brand invoked the name ‘denzilpatrick’?
The foundation of the brand is storytelling, the tales of my colourful family history. And so, it made complete sense to me, to feature the family in the brand name – Denzil and Patrick are the names of my grandfather’s, they emigrated from Jamaica and Ireland respectively in the 50’s and that is where we kicked off the journey of denzilpatrick.
As a dancer, your experience shines through your collections often in explicit ways, like in the AW22 collection video that is all about sensuality, vulnerable masculinity, and movement. Did your love for dance weave itself into AW23 as well?
Yes! Denzilpatrick is a continuing, evolving collection, so each season we like to move gently forward, picking up new characters (in the family) whilst also holding onto qualities we loved from previous collections. In this way, aspects of my own personality return to the collection, to create pieces that I hope will appeal to others. For AW23, we thought about how a person can be inspired by the matriarchs in their life in order to better themselves. To feel more free, to dress-up and move with new expression. At the height of this new expression, we imagined them springing into dance. We actually created this moment in a short film we made for AW23.
Your SS23 collection, London Belongs To Me, is an ode to the sense of belonging that immigrants and third culture people felt in London, particularly during the era of mass migration to the UK after the 1950s, but which was often socially and systemically denied from them. The film by Conor Kenyon Rollins breathes an air of nostalgia into this collection, through its warm, hazy cinematography and the texture of the cellulose that almost makes the visuals palpable; it is a reclamation of the Londoner identity. Have you always used clothes as a way of expressing your inner self?
Clothes have always been a way of communicating, for me. From a young age, I understood that I could use the way I dressed to capture peoples attention. Growing up, I just couldn’t get my head into the football or sport thing, unlike my brothers, and where I’m from this was your social credit; how you got by as a young man or teenager. Football or clothes! And so dressing presented itself as something I loved and would happily spend my days thinking about - I have no time for football. That’s a lie! I learned to like it after many years!
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Despite the power of expression that comes with clothes, the inaccessibility of some clothes – especially trendy ones – can make it even harder for immigrants and refugees to feel a sense of belonging within a community. How do you think denzilpatrick clothing challenges this?
What we represent as a brand is accessible to all; freedom to explore, challenging the masculine identity and dynamic thinking around the circularity of clothing. In addition, I do think of denzilpatrick as anti-trend in the traditional sense. For something to be trendy suggests something else is not, and that’s just not our mantra. Dressing is all about context, the individual, the occasion. All of these things considered, thrown in with a little anarchy, make for a great platform for anyone to get dressed.
How did the more chic, glamorous aesthetic for your latest AW23 collection All Dressed Up & Somewhere To Go come about?
Essentially; it was the mothers. Denzilpatrick may be named after my grandfathers, but our story is certainly not just about masculinity. As a kid, I was awed by the strength and poise of my mother and grandmothers, and lasting images of them make their way into my research each season. For AW23, we moved the attention to the scene of my mother’s family home in Brixton, with the memories of the female-run household, of the energy spent and love given to maintain it, against real adversity. I was drawn to the identity of these matriarchs at work, but also how their images changed as they shed their daily dress and dressed-up, to go on evenings out. In this collection, we imagined a person searching through the wardrobe of his mother, grandmother or great grandmother, feverishly trying on pieces, their aesthetic mixing with his own, even mixing with the house itself to create a new, surreal, modern identity.
Denzilpatrick AW23 has a stark contrast to London Belongs To Me. Directed by Daniel Archer, its film is much more sullen and not as dreamlike as SS23. The clothes are the most illuminating aspect of the visuals, as the models fashion them in a dark room and are practically concealed by shadows, with a series of overlapping voices, conversations, and ambient sounds. It seems as though you were in two completely different headspaces when working on these collections, what lies behind the guarded visuals of AW23?
We set a scene of this person (and their new identity) going forth into the night air of Brixton market. Perhaps on their way out or returning home, we imagined the privacy of this twilight walk, furtively trying on their new identity, protected by romantic streetlight and shadows. I am sure an aspect of film noir inspired the art direction, thinking of the Hollywood pin-ups that my grandmother would have idolised. So, for me, it very much was dreamlike state, but perhaps more of a wish to be fulfilled, than a memory of times past.
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SS23 was true to its sensibility in how its campaign was shot outside, around Southeast London. What influenced the choice of having AW23 shot indoors in a much darker environment?
We were really happy with the SS23 story setting and how we used what we knew to say how we felt. For AW23, we wanted to focus the story, literally on the clothes. Isolating the pieces, so carefully devised and well-crafted, into a more secluded environment where silhouette and detail could be observed. Of course, we were also encouraged to create the fantasy twilight space by Daniel’s photographic style; the way he seems to paint with light.
Something which is deeply admirable about your brand is its honesty and transparency when it comes to the sourcing and manufacturing practices that it engages in. Your acknowledgement of the difficulties of remaining sustainable, in a capital-driven, consumerist world, all the while trying to expand your brand is so important. Given how true this is, how does denzilpatrick aim to produce less and more environment-consciously?
I think the concept of expanding your brand, in economic terms is an interesting one. The term sustainability has arisen at a time of increased understanding that neither economic expansion or resources are infinite. We are at a fantastic time with denzilpatrick, where the onus really is on creative expression through design and we trust that the brand will naturally expand as the story is told. Of course, part of our design process includes making the right choices in materials and manufacture, but that is only way in which we can be responsible designers. As with the most celebrated fashion designers, we feel, imbuing the collections with rich stories and personality, creates pieces capable of being loved, coveted, lived in again and again. In short, we are happy to produce less and distribute in more meaningful ways.
Do you think it must come with the territory of accepting that your brand will remain small and underground?
After many years of working in the industry, I had a become very good at creating narratives through clothes and had a need to say something more personal; closer to my heart. To me, that had been the key element to my favourite design houses, Iike a guiding ethos at the heart of each brand. I think, perhaps, a more contemporary way to look at it, would be to say that a brand that remains small or underground, might better retain its original guiding ethos and exist as a positive cultural influence for longer. We might also, of course, uncouple the concept of success with the quantity of product that one sells. For me, the practice of good design, the connections it makes and creative communities that it builds are real markers of brand success. The very assets we discuss here, the films and images we create, are very important to our brand.
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London Belongs To Me is reflective of the period after youth but just before adulthood, for many people experiencing it, it can feel like an in-between, limbo-like phase. Looking back, is there a piece of advice you wish someone would have told you that would have helped you during this part of your life?
During the development of this collection, my husband and I talked a lot about our lives at this age. That, as young queer kids, it was especially limbo-like for us, in that homosexuality was not officially discussed in schools; in many ways we did not exist, until we crossed that threshold and burst into a world where we could finally be recognised. So that sense of emancipation was heady! It was a cathartic process. Advice I wish I’d been given: that creative expression, in all it’s many forms can be a guiding light in the darkest of times and that you should celebrate and respect it in yourself and in others. In all times of your life, in fact!
When can we expect All Dressed Up & Somewhere To Go to be available for purchase on your website?
AW23 Is available on the website from August.
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