Daniel W. Fletcher On His Rule-Breaking British Designs

From #11 The Art Issue, Hannah Bertolino speaks with the quintessentially British designer about Harry Styles, his creative collaborations and using your voice to inspire change.

This article was originally published in BRICKS #11, The Art Issue. To order a copy of the issue featuring cover stars Eartheater, Tove Lo, Gab Bois and Sage Flowers, visit our shop.

ILLUSTRATION Emily Blundell Owers

After graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2015, Daniel W. Fletcher made a quick start in fashion. Besides cutting his teeth working under the wing of Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton, the British menswear designer’s eponymous label launched into existence after getting picked up for a capsule collection at Opening Ceremony, and receiving its first-ever purchase from none other than Harry Styles’ personal stylist Harry Lambert, who ordered-up every shirt from the collection for the musician.

Since then, Fletcher has received a nomination for the LVMH prize, won runner-up in Netflix’s Next in Fashion competition series, and led as artistic director of the menswear division at Italian brand Fiorucci – all while making headlines while showing his sexy, rule-breaking British heritage wear at London Fashion Week Mens: think meticulously made tailored jackets and outerwear, patchwork shirts, short-shorts, and his signature split-hem bootcut trousers, a design which he pioneered in 2018.

Besides sculpting his designs with considered tributes to time spent growing up in North West England – see the chunky-knit Manchester United scarves and stripey leather vests his dad wore “back in the day” from his Fall 2022 collection, a tribute to his father after his passing – Fletcher injects his work with political and social commentary.

His “Peckham Pony Club” graduate collection critiqued gentrification in Peckham; for AW16, he stitched “Save our NHS” and “RENT” into his clothes, opening up conversations about London’s housing crisis and the NHS’ precarious future under the Tory government; and while showing his 2019 collection, he staged a guerrilla-style anti-Brexit protest outside the official London show venue with flags and beanies reading “STAY”. With this at the forefront, the designers’ work transforms from the nostalgic, well-loved staples of young men, to meaningful art, with an impact.

Hi Daniel! Let’s start at the beginning. What sparked your interest in fashion, and how did it become the avenue you wanted to go down for your career?

Fashion wasn’t something I always thought about as a career when I was growing up, I loved it, but I never thought of it as a career option because I had no idea where I’d even begin. I went to a state school in a small-ish town in the north of England, so we were being told to go into trades, or choose stable jobs that there were clear paths into. I’d never even met a fashion designer let alone had any sort of leg up into the industry so it wasn’t until I moved to London to study art foundation that I really could see it as a viable option for me. My first step was going on the London Fashion Week website aged 20 (and not really knowing how it worked) then calling up a PR agency I found the number for on there and charming my way into an unpaid internship helping out in their showroom on my days off from college.

I read that Harry Styles was your first-ever customer! Could you please tell me a bit about this experience?

He was! His brilliant stylist Harry Lambert found me at the Purple PR press day after they took me on and showed my graduate collection there right after I finished Saint Martins. He took one of my shirts for Harry Styles to try and he then asked me to make six different ones for him – I guess the rest is history.

He took one of my shirts for Harry Styles to try and he then asked me to make six different ones for him – I guess the rest is history.

Daniel W. Fletcher

How would you describe your eponymous label in your own words?

If Harry Potter was really chic and not afraid to show some skin.

Could you please talk to us a bit about what will be in store for your next collection, and fill us in on the inspiration behind it?

I released a capsule of my AW22 collection in July which is from my show last February. It’s lots of tailoring and sexy silk shirts and great pieces for hot summer nights. I’m taking a bit of a different approach to how I release collections now, rather than huge drops and endless looks every six months I’m enjoying putting our smaller and more sustainable capsules more regularly, like the hand-painted pieces I released in May or the salad print scarf I designed in collaboration with Pret last month which supported the Pret Foundation and their work combatting homelessness. It feels more in tune with where the fashion industry is at right now and where my brand is at the moment.

Do you have a favourite piece from the collection, or one that you think sums it up?

I have done some t-shirts which look like gif t-shirts which I love. I’m not musically talented but I’d have loved to have been in a band so it’s fun to have my very DWF merch tees for me and my imaginary band.

Throughout your own collections, you seem to draw a lot of inspiration from your family and where you grew up. Was this a conscious choice for you?

I think it’s something that has happened organically without me thinking about it too much. I remember when I was in my first few years of CSM I didn’t really get it, I was trying to fulfil these briefs but there was no personal connection to my work but after I did my internships at Lanvin and Louis Vuitton in Paris I watched how Lucas and Kim put their collections together and the personal connections they wove into those in order to tell a story and it sort of clicked for me.

You’re also known for pushing the boundaries of traditional British heritage-wear with rule-breaking designs and creative collaborations. Could you please tell us a bit about your scarf collaboration with Pret?

I was so happy when Pret approached me for this collaboration, firstly as it allowed me to support a really worthwhile cause but then also I just thought it was so fun. Fashion should have a sense of humour and the idea of a scarf inspired by a salad really tickled me.

The inspiration came from my new favourite salad (Pret’s miso chicken & greens) and I wanted to do something that felt reminiscent of traditional British silk head scarves, the sort you might see the Queen wearing around Balmoral, and voila, why just dress your salad when you can literally dress in your salad?

At DWF it’s very much about how I’m feeling about the world whereas Fiorucci is led by the history of the brand and where I see it going in the future. It’s a dark, sexy, glamorous disco world that I’m very much enjoying delving into!

Daniel W. Fletcher

You’re also the menswear designer at Fiorucci. What’s your creative process like working at your own label versus at Fiorucci? Are there any ways that it differs?

Fiorucci has such a strong identity that is informed by its heritage and archive that the process of designing a collection there is really different to my own brand. At DWF it’s very much about how I’m feeling about the world whereas Fiorucci is led by the history of the brand and where I see it going in the future. It’s a dark, sexy, glamorous disco world that I’m very much enjoying delving into!

Here at BRICKS, we’re all about using our voices to amplify underrepresented communities and explore inequalities through fashion, art, and culture – something that you’re no stranger to in your own work. Could you tell us a bit about why this resonates with you?

I think it’s important to use your voice to inspire positive change, if you’ve got a platform and people are responding to it then that should be used for good. For me that’s my creative practice, if I can give individuals and communities support through that then that’s something I will always strive to do.

You’ve also used your collections to speak out against Brexit and gentrification in Peckham. How did this come about for you? And what was the reception like?

When speaking out on things I’m aware there are always going to be people who don’t agree, but I also can’t help myself if it’s something I feel passionately about. I wouldn’t want to force my opinion upon someone else, but if I can encourage conversation then that’s a really positive first step and I also want to engage in those conversations myself.

Do you think that more designers should feel a responsibility to address these issues through their work?

I think everyone needs to do what feels right for them; I spent years thinking I needed to do what other people expected of me but I’ve never been happier than when I’m really true to myself.

You’ve spoken before about how Kim Jones was a big influence and mentor for you. Could you please share with us a piece of advice or tip from him that’s stuck with you?

I think the thing that really stands out to me about Kim and the influence he had on me was how he tells a story and puts a collection together. When I went to Louis Vuitton for my internship I had no idea how to do that, I was just drawing little people with clothes on but the reality of turning that into a collection which has a narrative was something I had no idea how to do so I’m really grateful to Kim for that.

If you were mentoring a young designer, what’s one piece of advice you would tell them?

Approach everything with ambition but without expectation. It’s never good to think you can or can’t do something before you have even started but if you have ambitions you should just go for it without letting those expectations pre-determine what’s going to happen… and be kind!

Over the last 25 years, the Pret Foundation Charity Commission has supported charities and projects working to alleviate homelessness, poverty and hunger in communities across the UK. This summer, the foundation partnered with three stalwarts of British fashion, who have lent their unique style signatures to three exclusive scarves inspired by a suitably summery essential – Pret’s seasonal salads. The limited-edition scarves on sale exclusively via Shopify on Pret’s Instagram for £30. 

<strong>Hannah Bertolino</strong>
Hannah Bertolino

Hannah specialises in music and Gen Z trends, voices, and culture. Between BRICKS magazine and Dazed, she has profiled leading pop artists Remi Wolf, MUNA, Benee, Eartheater, Yeule, and more. For her latest project, she is collaborating with Tori West to launch mom zine – an alternative music magazine celebrating artists and fan culture.

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