Claire Yurika Davis is a London-based fashion designer and owner of Hanger, the conscious label bringing Japanese influence to what she calls “comfort power dressing”. The use of strong, bold fabrics like latex may conjure up images of sex dungeons and ‘80s sci-fi thrillers, but Hanger is about a lot more than just overt displays of sexuality.
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What drew you to becoming a designer and how did you notice your style start to develop?
Since I was around five or six, I was always trying to make clothes and dreamt of being a designer. I think the development of style is a constant thing and is always changing. I think when I really came into my signature style with Hanger was around 2015, when I really honed by design process and learnt how to formulate ideas that looked good but also worked and looked distinctly mine.
Your brand has grown considerably in the past few years, especially since winning the Asos Fashion Discovery Prize. How has this affected your business and your creativity?
Loads! Access to money is the main obstacle that everyone faces, so being fortunate enough to be awarded this prize was really and truly fabulous. It did, under no uncertain terms, enable me to get to the next stage of business, be able to work with amazing people and show my brand to a much greater audience. To be honest, the journey also had a ton of struggles; upscaling can be incredibly hard when you’re doing everything for the first time. But nothing good comes easy, apparently?
You’ve said in the past that your Japanese heritage has had a big influence on your style, taking inspiration from the Sukeban or ‘girl boss’ character from Japanese cinema. How has this character influenced you as a girl boss and business owner yourself?
I’m not sure if looking at these characters has really influenced me as a person. The reason I look to empowered female figures in my work is that I already am one and I am surrounded by them – whether they know it or not.
“Unfortunately, profit margins are way more important to brands than environmental damage and slavery, so I think fashion still has an incredibly long way to go.”
Do you hope that someone wearing Hanger garments feels empowered, sexy and dominant? Or do you see another aspect to your work that has nothing to do with sexuality?
I would hope that anyone wearing my clothes feels however they want to feel, be that sexy and dominant or quiet and low-key. I think there is definitely an inherent boldness within my pieces that would lend to a feeling of empowerment but I don’t want the main message of my work to be overt ‘sexuality’. For me, my work is about so much more than sex; it’s about comfort as well as strength. In my new Season 8 collection, I’ve incorporated suits that the wearer can be comfortable in and adjust, which I guess we can call comfort power-dressing. For me, showing people that it’s not only old white men who can wear suits is way more important than showing people that women are sexy because we’ve had this message since the dawn of time.
As latex is usually associated with fetishism and BDSM and not necessarily the high street, how have you found developing the material as an everyday, ready-to-wear fabric?
It’s difficult! People’s preconceptions of the fabric are pretty die-hard but we’re getting there. Also, latex doesn’t have to be for everyone but definitely should be for more than it is now. If you think of it as an alternative to leather or PVC, it’s pretty clear that an alternative that doesn’t involve the slaughter of an animal or even more plastic in the world makes sense. The way I use latex is also an effort to show people that it is, as a fabric, most definitely ‘wearable’ and not strictly dungeon-wear only.
Earlier this year, you produced a short video called Spring Demon showcasing your latest collection. Can you tell me about what inspired the video and the creative process behind it?
I worked with artist Chris Fowler on this shoot, mainly just because we wanted to create something fun and in line with the inspiration of the collection. The references in it are a clear nod to the Sukeban inspiration for the collection, and we really just wanted to do a fun shoot with friends of ours. I hope that came through!
How much does your work benefit or take influence from the other creatives around you? Like the team who produced your video or models and photographers you work with?
The people around me really drive me and push me creatively, and fortunately, my close circle is full of creatives with whom I work regularly. What I do is most definitely influenced by them and so all of the work I put out with Hanger is one hundred per cent a collaborative effort. There are very few things that are done or thought up solely on my own. With every shoot, the team is made up of friends or friends of friends. For me, it’s really important to be able to fully trust who I’m working with, especially as money’s too tight to be able to afford big mistakes; this means our teams are almost always female – I’m sure you understand why.
Your brand is surprisingly conscious, with very few people knowing that latex is actually a renewable fabric. Obviously, sustainability is needed in the fashion industry. How do you think the growing consciousness is changing the industry and how does it pull Hanger apart from other brands?
It’s an extremely long process and so I do think the industry is changing but not nearly as quickly as it needs to. Unfortunately, profit margins are way more important to brands than environmental damage and slavery, so I think fashion still has an incredibly long way to go. As a brand, I think our practices of manufacturing in London and incorporating renewable fabrics does set us apart from a lot of other labels but there’s still a lot more I hope we can do in the future.
One of the main reasons the fashion industry is so unsustainable is that it is incredibly difficult to fully trace a supply and manufacture chain to achieve full transparency unless you dedicate a lot of money to the cause. I’m hoping that, as time goes on, legislation will change, which will make it a lot easier for everyone, including myself, to be able to know how and where their products have come from.
After a busy few years, where are you focussing the brand’s energies these days and what are you working on for the future?
We’ve just launched our new Season 8, The Temple of Sleepy-Chan collection. We also partnered with our friends at Studio Augmenta on a huge film to accompany it, so launching this is the focus of my efforts at the moment, and getting the clothes out there. And at some point, some rest!
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