We don't know if you saw the new Netflix competition Next In Fashion presented by Tan France and Alexa Chung. If so, congratulations, you've won some context. If not, let us introduce you. The 26-year-old British designer goes by the name of Daniel W. Fletcher and is already one of the most talked-about names in the new wave of designers. A graduate of Central Saint Martins, he makes us believe that his fashion background is a succession of coincidences. However, his CV and his most assiduous fans are likely to think otherwise.
With his own label and in parallel running Fiorucci which in the ‘70s was nicknamed the Studio 54 of fashion —Daniel has a more than established presence. We spoke to him about filters, the binary and how he got here.
You’ve made quite a name for yourself. Not only is your namesake brand a staple for A-list celebrities, as well as being a nominee for the 2017 LVMH Prize, but you also earned GQ’s 2020 breakthrough designer award and have had many other achievements so far. Currently as the artistic director of Fiorucci, how do you manage your brand and the artistic direction of the other?
It’s a lot to take on doing both, but they have such different visual identities the creative side of it is quite easy to separate. The Fiorucci archive is really what drives the collection —and there is so much history there that what I’m designing is really paying homage to that; whereas Daniel W. Fletcher is much more personal and about what I’m feeling, it’s really a driven by my own experiences. Fitting it all in, though, does mean I have to be pretty strict with time and there’s a lot of long days, but I love what I do so have no complaints about it.
Looking back at your beginnings as a designer, how do you recall those first experiences? How would you recommend other people to start their journey in the fashion world?
I really had no idea about the fashion industry when I started out, I really couldn’t get my head around how fashion weeks worked. I thought people could buy tickets, and it was like a roaming tour and brands would go around to all the cities, so I just called up a PR agency I found on the BFC website and talked myself into an internship. So the advice I would give is to ask questions and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, then gain as much experience as you possibly can.
As a British man yourself, your brand’s main theme is your heritage and its sociopolitical context — I recall your 2017 collection was against Brexit. You’ve often even stated that the point is to create a conversation. What motivates you to link fashion and politics? And what do you receive from revisiting your heritage?
It’s never really a conscious decision to link politics but if something is on my mind (Brexit for example) then it will find its way into the collection without me even realising. If I can get people talking about it and create some positive change then that’s very rewarding for me.
Yet the conversations created through your brand don’t stop there, since you also focus on climate change and sustainability, as you try to work with prime materials from Northern mills and leftover fabrics from past collections. What was the moment that changed the way you communicated with the environment through your garments?
It certainly wasn’t on my mind as much when I first started, I was just trying to figure out how to run a brand and just survive but as things started to grow I became increasingly aware of the potential impact of what I was doing was having on the planet. I think the climate crisis is really staring us in the face now and all brands have a responsibility to do something about it, I don’t want my lasting impact to be one that has damaged our planet.
We caught a glimpse of your savoir-faire during your participation on Netflix’s reality show Next In Fashion. Still, could you give us a more detailed insight into DWF’s work process?
Next In Fashion was pretty wild, it was a very different way to how I work normally. A lot of what I do is driven by my research, I’m always looking through my books and absorbing what’s around me and the conception of a collection is spread over weeks and months. We might not even make any samples until a couple of weeks before, so I can really make sure what we are doing is right. On the show, however, it was pretty much design your outfit on the spot after finding out the theme and then start making it straight away, I enjoyed it though, it was nice to work in a different way and I left with a renewed energy.
Ever since you presented your Central Saint Martin’s graduate collection, your brand has been readily labeled as menswear. Yet on last year’s Fall/Winter 2021 London Fashion Week you presented your first ever womenswear collection, where we could see certain deconstructed elements such as blue knit sleeveless turtleneck sweaters with a fastening at the front that seem inspired by the cummerbund belt. What led you to create this collection?
I don’t really view the collections as men's or women's anymore. That’s really been driven by my customers because, whilst initially the collections were designed as menswear, we had so many women wearing the pieces it removed that gender boundary for me which is something I loved. The world is in a very different place now and attitudes towards the way we dress have really shifted into a much fluid space, which is so refreshing. A lot of my inspiration comes from traditional menswear, in particular the details and styles of heritage formalwear, but I always try to take it to a new place that nods to tradition but still has a modern take.
Was it a path you had envisioned before for your brand?
It’s funny to think about what I expected when I started my brand because the truth is it sort of happened without me realising. I was working really hard on it but the decision to actually make it into a business happened because I had people wanting to buy my clothes, at the beginning it was just my graduate collection which I had sewn myself and there wasn’t really the idea to make it a brand. So I guess I’ve always just sort of gone with the demand. And as long as people want it I will continue to create.
Earlier on in the interview I mentioned Fiorucci. When did the idea or the call to be the director of the brand come around and how did you feel when they offered it to you? Not to mention its style is completely different to what we see in your own brand.
I’ve been at Fiorucci for two years now, and it’s been a really amazing experience; to be part of such an iconic brand and be able to put my own stamp on it is a designers dream. The process of how it happened was quite quick really, I only had two meetings with them and in the second one the founders offered me the role on the spot and I knew I wanted to take it as soon as we had started talking. The style is so different from my own brand, but that was one of the challenges that excited me the most. Also, having access to such an incredible archive is a dream, there’s so much to work with there, and I’m constantly finding new things to inspire me.
When looking at Fiorucci’s evolution from the past years to how it is now, the first thing that grabs my attention is its wider range and overall style shift. Are there other changes you made on the brand that may not be that visible?
When I stared the collection, it was mainly denim and jersey, and mostly focussed around the angels' logo. I was keen to expand on that and explore the other untapped parts of the archive. I’m particular bringing back some of that Italian disco-flair and spirit of New York in the 80s, which I think is more visible in the collections now. Behind the scenes, however, I’ve been making changes to make the brand more sustainable; things like making all the cotton organic, changing the carrier bags and swing tags to be recycled card, making garments from seaweed. Most recently we stopped producing vinyl jeans, I love the style of them, but it’s a really damaging material so, until we can find a way to make them in a way that is more conscious of our planet, they won’t be made. It’s important for me coming from my background of running a small label where we focus on sustainable practice to be able to implement that on a bigger scale.
On a final note, what else can we see from Daniel W. Fletcher in the future? Could you give us any spoilers about future projects?
I’m about to make my return to the runway this month (after 3 years!) which I’m really excited about. I think a collection takes on a different life when you’re designing it for a runway, so I’ve enjoyed working on this one. Then, later in the year I have a collaboration coming out which I’ve been working on for so long, and I can’t wait to share! It’s with a historical French company, and it’s something that brings together so many things which are important to me… but that’s all I can share for now!
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