Streetwear special: “It’s a way for me to encourage the discussion of social issues”, designer Daniel W. Fletcher
Igniting conversation beyond fashion with his young label, British designer Daniel W. Fletcher tells us why there's more to streetwear than meets the eye
It's not often a streetwear designer literally takes to the streets, but Daniel W. Fletcher has proven to be the exception rather than the rule since his SS16 capsule debut. Slowly but surely making a name for himself through heritage and sports-inspired menswear, Fletcher has always steered clear of slogan-led and branding-focused wares. Except, in instances he actually wants to be heard.
Take his SS16 'Peckham Pony Club' slogans — a poke at the gentrification of London's Peckham neighbourhood — for example, and most recently, his SS17 fashion demonstration during London Collections Men. With the brand's presentation scheduled in the weeks leading up to the Brexit, Fletcher had a message to deliver: 'Stay', splashed across sports blousons and caps, further accessorised by pseudo protest signs.
As there's clearly more to this young designer than just trends and textiles, we're all ears as he speaks about social issues, music, and branding as an integral part of streetwear.
What is streetwear to you? For me, streetwear is the about wearing whatever you want. It's not about following high fashion but about the styles you see in real life and trends that emerge from everyday people. This is not to say that it's commercial or high street, as streetwear can be as expressive and creative as any fashion show. It's more about real people, which also means it is different wherever you go. I think there is a misconception that streetwear is all about hoodies and sweatpants, but it's much broader than that. What do you think is its allure? Whether I'm in London, Paris or anywhere in the world, it's unavoidable. Particularly in urban areas of cities. I think this makes it creep into my work. Seeing how people put clothes together really fascinates me, especially how sportswear is incorporated into everyday life to create a strong streetwear look.
Graphics and slogans are one of the most recognisable aspects of streetwear. Tell us why it's more than just a branding tool for you. Branding is a huge part of streetwear, but I've avoided using my name up to this point. It's mainly got to do with insecurity. I think: Who would want to wear something with my name on it? But, I often write messages on my designs as it's a way for me to encourage the discussion of social issues, which I am passionate about. I presented my SS17 collection just before the referendum in the UK, and as I felt so strongly about wanting to remain a part of the EU, the word 'Stay' was emblazoned across the front of many pieces. Even if people don't agree with my message, I want to at least raise the discussion — especially amongst younger generations.
How important do you think it is to not only create clothes that are desirable, but to be able to use design as an outlet for your opinions? It's a big part of my motivation when I design a collection; I try to think what is important to me and what I want to say with each one. While I have this platform and if people are listening to me, then I want to use it to promote social change. I've read a lot of Ruth Glass' work, who was the sociologist that defined the term gentrification and wanted to influence policy making. It's a bold statement, but I would be happy if I could do anything like that.
Is there a designer or brand that you think is breaking the mould in the recent? If not, what would you like to see more of in the near future? I think Craig Green and Grace Wales Bonner are doing great things, as they both have developed strong aesthetics and established an immediately recognisable look in a really short span of time. Another friend of mine from Central Saint Martins, Elliss Solomon, has also just launched her own underwear and basics label that's all about sustainability. There's an ugly stigma attached to eco fashion, but what she is doing is really cool and it's something we need to think about. I'd like to see more emphasis on this, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Elliss does.
What are the most rewarding moments of your design career so far? I'm in Los Angeles right now, and I was in a store the other day where a sales assistant told me he liked my shirt - one from my SS16 collection - and that he had the same piece. I sort of dismissed it, thinking he was just being friendly, but then he said, "Yeah, I love Daniel W. Fletcher's stuff". I couldn't believe it. Being on the other side of the world and for something like that to happen was a really rewarding and surreal moment for me.
As streetwear and music are so closely interlinked, who are your heroes, and how do they influence your work? The first gig I ever went to was The Rolling Stones with my dad when I was 12. He's a huge fan and it's something that's rubbed off on me. I love the eccentric Britishness of how they dress, especially in the early '70s. As such, there are always pictures of Mick Jagger on my moodboards.
Who in your opinion, looks best in streetwear, and who would you love to see in your designs? I think musicians like Lil Yachty or Travis Scott could really transform my clothes. They are a bit wild and carry streetwear well, and I would love to see them in some of my stuff. British singer Olly Alexander has been wearing some of my designs recently, which I was really happy about. I like him as he's outspoken, and not shy to stand up for things — particularly, gay rights. I feel like we are on the same wavelength and he's got a good eye for new brands.