The London-based Designer Making a Political Statement With Fashion

Meet Daniel W. Fletcher, the newest name in British menswear

In a post-Brexit world, Daniel w. Fletcher stands out as one of the newest names in British menswear; with his politically motivated collections and constant updates to traditional British staples, this 26-year-old designer may have made it onto our radar with his “Stay”-themed presentation-protest back in June 2016, but has since captivated an industry (and the LVMH Prize jurors) with his commitment to creating a contemporary trans-seasonal wardrobe.

For his Spring/Summer 2018 presentation at London Fashion Week Men’s, he celebrated what it means to be young and British with a Seventies-inspired collection of revised raincoats, relaxed tailoring and a retro range of wrestling singlets. It was true to form and unashamedly political, and immediately had us wanting to know more. Below, we talked with the emerging talent on building his label, the creative process and what it was like being an LVMH shortlisted finalist.

COOLS: This year has really been huge for you. You were shortlisted for the LVMH Prize and you presented your Spring/Summer 2018 collection last month at London Fashion Week Men’s. That was what, your fourth collection?

DF: Yes, my fourth. Well, I also had my graduate collection, so like my fourth and a half?

COOLS: All right. [Laughs.] What has it been like for you so far?

DF: Honestly, it’s been a steep learning curve so far. [When I started] I didn’t really have a chance to think about it, really. I never made the decision [that] I was going to start my own label; it just kind of happened. When I graduated, Opening Ceremony bought my collection; and, at that point, I was in conversation with Louis Vuitton and some other brands, talking about what I was going to be doing, because I thought I would be going to work for one of them. I still felt like I had a lot to learn, but then this opportunity came up, so these last two years I’ve felt very much like I’ve been making it up as I go along, but I’m really happy with how it’s going and people are responding well to it.

COOLS: Wow, I wouldn’t have thought that actually, because your collections seem so consistent.

DF: Thank you. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of support from my PR team, who really look after me and have guided me, and I’ve got a great sales agent. And the people I’ve worked with in the past have been really supportive, in terms of helping me out with the fabrics or giving me advice when I ask for it. Like Sarah Mower, for example. There’ve been a couple of times when I’ve been like, “God, I really just don’t know what to do right now.” I’ll send her an email, and she’ll call me the next day and give me some advice and introduce me to people where I need it, even if it’s getting help with production or finance or anything like that. So, I feel very lucky that all these people have been behind me.

COOLS: Yeah, especially for young designers, it’s difficult to find these mentors and friends who are willing to help you out.

DF: Yeah, definitely, especially if you come, like I did, straight out of university into a label. You go from designing your collection, where you’re having weekly meetings with your tutor to talk about the collection and getting feedback, to having no one and being in a studio on your own and making it up and no one telling you if it’s good or not. So, having this support system has been a huge benefit to me.

COOLS: Oh, definitely. I can see how’ve you grown over the past few collections, especially with your Spring/Summer 2018 collection. I loved the form-fitting wrestling singlet, but you still had some of the same business appropriate vibe that was in Autumn/Winter 2017, right?

DF: Yeah, there were still some suits and some smart trousers. I feel like the spring/summer collection is always a bit more casual than the autumn/winter anyway. Just because of the way people dress for summer, like shorts and t-shirts; it’s a bit easier. And, if there’s one thing I want my collections to do, it’s to reflect a real wardrobe, rather than being something so out there that people can’t buy it or naturally wear it. But there’s always a sportswear base layer running through all of my collections, and then building it up with more traditional pieces inspired by British heritage but still feels contemporary. This season I stripped off a lot of the details, like the trench coat, for example. It had all the buttons removed, and the lapel, and the belt, to make it have this feeling of a traditional British garment but that felt quite young and contemporary.

COOLS: Right, the spring/summer collection was all about that – being young and British.

DF: Yeah, one thing that interests me is the way people dress now, in 2017. There’re not so many rules anymore; if you want wear a sports look with a trench coat, people can just do that – it’s this new, youthful approach to dressing. And that’s why I wanted to do the collection, so that you have this base layer (which is very sportswear inspired) with a nod to something slightly more historical and almost a trans-seasonal approach to dressing as well. I don’t think people nowadays want to buy one specific wardrobe for summer, and then one specific wardrobe for winter. In this country anyway, you can’t, that doesn’t work, because it might be sunny today, but it’s probably going to be raining tomorrow. So I built this collection off of this base layer of very 1970s sportswear (which inspires a lot of my work) and then layered it with more traditional pieces; it’s about creating this multilayered approach to useful dressing.

COOLS: Right, and I think that’s what I loved the most about your spring collection: how balanced it was and how it really felt like a wardrobe.

DF: When I design a collection, this is what I’m thinking about – about what I want to see in this kind of manufactured wardrobe. It’s taken me a while to get to that point; it’s only now that we’re in a lot more stores, and I’m selling a lot more, and actually seeing how people wear the collection that I’m able to do that. And it has really been reflected in the sales this season.

COOLS: Is that where sales/customer feedback comes into play?

DF: Yeah, the responses we get from all the stores, they’ve all been bought into the collection in some way. Rather than being like, “This did really well, and this didn’t do so well,” we’ve been able to build a story at each store. Like in Asia, they really like the jackets; they’ve done well because of the climate there. And then in the US, the short [sleeve] tees have done really well, especially the jersey pieces. But, you can still see the collection as a whole at each store, which is nice for me actually because I don’t want to go into a store and just see t-shirts, joggers and sweatshirts; that’s not reflective of the brand.

COOLS: Do you ever find yourself wearing your own clothing?

DF: Hmm, I don’t wear anything that is in development, but I do wear pieces from previous seasons, usually on a day when I don’t have time to go and buy any clothes. But I am quite boring as well; I usually wear black jeans and a gray or navy t-shirt. When you’re thinking about clothes so much, having to go and shop and pick things out for yourself becomes quite a chore. I spend so much time getting the cut and the fit of these clothes right, and making sure the quality is good, that it would be a bit hypocritical of me to expect other people to wear them if I don’t want to wear them myself; but then again, I think I can be a bit biased as well, sometimes.

COOLS: Do you ever find that you’re designing for yourself?

DF: No, not particularly, but I do think I am the customer, actually. Like how the clothes are something I would want to wear myself, but I’m not designing every single season or every piece thinking, “Oh, would I wear that?” I don’t have the beach body to wear a wrestling singlet, anyway.

COOLS: [Laughs] Me either! So, I want to talk with you about the LVMH Prize. What was it like hearing the news you were shortlisted as a finalist?

DF: It was amazing; I never imagined being nominated for it, because I’d seen the brands that have been in it before, brands I’d been following for years. So to be considered alongside Martine Rose, Molly Goddard, and people I look up to was a real honor. And then, to go there and meet these judges one by one – like Karl  [Lagerfeld], Anna [Wintour] and design directors from all these houses and the journalists I’ve been reading since I was 18 years old – it was quite a surreal experience for me. I had such an amazing time and the response I had was fantastic. Everyone was very positive and even between all the nominees as well; we were all just happy to be there.

COOLS: Do you think it helped the brand?   

DF: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people watch that platform, and it definitely had an impact for me in terms of brand awareness. And I think it gives me a little bit of credibility as well, which was the case when I went to work for Louis Vuitton for the time that I did. Having that experience under my belt, and people knowing I had done that, gave me an edge on other designers who might have just graduated and started their labels straight away – a name like that does really help.

COOLS: Your past collections have been very politically inspired, will that continue?

DF: I think there’s always a chance, because I’m quite a political person and I think it’s important that, if you believe in something or have an opinion, you should talk about it even if people don’t feel the same. People didn’t believe the same as me about Brexit, but at least I brought the discussion to the table and was open about it. For Autumn/Winter 2017, I designed it post-Brexit, when I felt like I was being completely overlooked, that everything I stood for had just been ignored, so I wanted to send out a message that said, “Okay, we’re still here, and we’re not prepared to bow down to this xenophobic attitude and step back towards right-wing politics.” I wanted to do something positive, so there were strong seventies themes in it, because it felt like a similar period when there was a lot of political unrest. We don’t live in a world now where we should shy away from those kinds of things; just talk about it.

COOLS: How do you find the time to be inspired?

DF: I don’t know really. Even though I’m working a lot, that doesn’t mean I’m not socially active as well; I still like going out, and I can still find time to go to museums. It just might be: If I’ve got a meeting at 3:00 p.m. but I don’t have anything for an hour, then I’ll squeeze in a little gallery trip in between, or something like that. There’s so much happening in London, you can’t help but not be inspired.

COOLS: So what else is going on in the world of Daniel w. Fletcher?

DF: Well, I’m just getting ready to launch in some new stores. We have Tom Greyhound in Paris next month I think, and I’m doing a store installation for Beams International Gallery in Tokyo, which will be in September. Hmm, what else is coming up? Just getting ready to launch Autumn/Winter 2017 I guess, and I’m also thinking about when I’m going to show my next collection. I might do something outside of the traditional schedule. I think there’s space to play around with the schedule a little bit, because I don’t think it necessarily works for all brands; so I’m hoping to do something a bit different. There might be some updates in the next few weeks, so I’ll keep you posted.

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