Daniel W Fletcher.
At last summer’s London Fashion Week Men’s – then called London Collections: Men – a political undertone took over many of the shows and presentations. It was more of an overtone, really. Many designers, including Lou Dalton, Patrick Grant and Christopher Raeburn, took to the runway for their final bow wearing “IN” t-shirts, showing their support for the UK remaining in the EU after the referendum just days later.
There were many subtle references to the impending Brexit decision, all of them in support of remaining part of the EU, but none more obvious than newcomer Daniel W. Fletcher, whose whole SS17 collection was dedicated to the cause. Not showing on the British Fashion Council’s official schedule, his presentation took the form of a sit-in protest outside the official show venue at 180 Strand, street cast models get the message of “STAY” across to the crowds by wearing it on caps and tops, or waving it on flags. “I didn’t announce the presentation until the night before, I was afraid the BFC would catch wind of it and shut it down,” the designer told us of the following his AW17 presentation this month. “It got picked up by the New York Times and American Vogue, as well as a lot of the press here, which I wasn’t really expecting. It maybe wasn’t the best way to show a collection, but I felt it was an important message.”
It was the moment that Fletcher became widely known on the fashion scene. Graduating from Central Saint Martins, with internships at Louis Vuitton, Lanvin and James Long under his belt – as well as working his final year of study at Victoria Beckham to pay the bills – he bravely “emailed everyone I could get the address of” and was subsequently profiled by Business of Fashion. From this, Opening Ceremony became his first stockist of the SS16 collection, a reaction to the gentrification and rising rents in London.
A pop-up shop stocking the anti-Brexit collection then opened in Covent Garden. “We had no money,” the designer explained. “We found a space that had no power sockets, lights, the walls needed plastered and painted. I made a deal with the landlord that we would make the space rentable if we could have it for free, which he agreed to, and three weeks of power cables, plastering, painting, hard graft, we opened the doors.” The white open space, with stripes encircling in colours that complemented the collection and minimal fittings. Downstairs, pink neon lights provided a nightclub meets gallery feel where framed images of the collection in editorial shots hung from the raw concrete walls. The reaction to his collection in the space was positive, the designer told Hero’s Alex James Taylor after the short outing into London’s competitive designer retail market. “I was really pleased with the response to the shop, it was good to see people interacting with the product in the context of a store, it made having my own brand feel very real!”
Of course, the decision didn’t go in Fletcher’s favour as 52% of the UK made the decision to leave the EU. Then the rest of 2016 descended into political surprises around the world that were – in one American case in particular – more unexpected than the leave vote. And so developed the theme of Fletcher’s AW17 outing: a collection of Seventies inspired looks displayed on models perched on plinths – canvassing flyers scattered around them – like candidates in a political rally.
This time showing for his first season on the official LFWM schedule, Fletcher has learned a lot about the business from trial and error in his rather quick rise to success. “I made a lot of mistakes, mostly with pricing. I ended up selling one top for less than it was costing me to make.”
Finding his niche as a designer who isn’t afraid to speak up for what he believes in but at the same time produces beautiful menswear, his latest collection expertly blends the two. “The result of the referendum and the election of Trump made me feel a huge sense of frustration, it feels like my generation are being ignored and in this collection I want to reflect the energy of the youth to fight for a multicultural and equal society,” the designer told Hero Magazine in December.
Harking back to an era when political turmoil was most relatable to today, his AW17 offering features patchwork leather and wool, shearling, autumnal tones and sportswear influences that referenced gym kits of the decade. Accomplished, relevant, with just the right kind of controversy. We like. And we’re excited for the future of his brand.
Photo Credit: Josh Fray
Video Credit: Daniel W Fletcher