Glass speaks to British designer Daniel Fletcher

Glass  speaks to British designer Daniel Fletcher on his speedy journey to creating his own label, dressing Harry Styles and the steps the fashion industry must take to become more sustainable

Daniel Fletcher Portrait Daniel Fletcher Portrait Daniel Fletcher

It was in early December 1998 that Daniel Fletcher instinctively pinpoints the moment that his love for fashion ignited. “I remember seeing Shania Twain in the That Don’t Impress Me Much music video where she’s walking through the desert. She’s got this leopard-print full look with a hood,” he recalls. “I was, like, wow, that is really great.”

Fast forward to today and the 31-year-old is a force to be reckoned within the industry six years into his eponymous label. He is also menswear artistic director of Italian heritage brand Fiorucci; a nominee of the 2017 LVMH prize; GQ Breakthrough Designer of the Year 2020 and one of Draper’s 30 Under 30.

Born in Cheshire, fashion was not on his radar growing up. “There was never really like a clear path for me. I was not always, like, ‘I want to be a fashion designer’,” explains Fletcher. But he adds, “My mum always tells me stories about me being six years old and wanting to match my socks with my t-shirts.”

Swapping the north of England for the capital, he did an art foundation course at Kingston University before studying for the fashion design menswear degree at London’s Central Saint Martins.

DWF fw21Daniel w. Fletcher AW21 Campaign

While there, he had periods of working for some of the biggest names in fashion, including Burberry and Louis Vuitton, absorbing heaps of information that would eventually form the foundation for his own brand. His stint as a Saturday boy at the Burberry store in Knightsbridge helped him to understand customer behaviour, he says. “At Vuitton, I was working on bags. I learned so much actually from that experience, seeing how you put a collection together.”

One of Fletcher’s mentors was fashion designer Kim Jones. “Kim obviously is really inspiring and he taught me a lot, especially about telling a story.” It was guidance like this and his own raw talent that helped fast-track him to success post-graduation. “That would be my advice to a younger designer wanting to set something up. Learn how to do it from someone’s who’s already done it first.”

After Fletcher shot his own look-book for his graduate collection, he sent it off on a whim to fashion editors. Imran Amed, the editor-in-chief of the Business of Fashion, wrote a feature on him which led to a PR agency contacting the young designer shortly afterwards asking if he wanted to show during their press day.

DWF fw21Daniel w. Fletcher AW21 Campaign

“I was, like, ‘it’s just my graduate collection’. I really didn’t expect any of this,” says Fletcher, still baffled all these years on. “Then, Harry Lambert [Harry Styles’ stylist] came and saw the shirts. He said, ‘Harry would love these – can I take one for him to try?’ So he did and then emailed me a couple of days later saying he loved them and would it be possible to get all four from the graduate collection plus a few custom ones. We did that and the the rest is kind of history.”

In 2015 at the age of 24, he launched his Daniel W. Fletcher label with Styles as his first customer. Talk about a debut. Many shirts later, I ask what his favourite Styles-DWF moment is. “There was a blue silk striped [shirt] that he wore on the Jonathan Ross Show,” he says smiling. “I’ve grown up watching the show with my dad and to see someone on it wearing one of my garments and for it to be Harry Styles was quite special.”

DWF fw21Daniel w. Fletcher AW21 Campaign

Beyond the people who wear Daniel W Fletcher, the brand’s aesthetic is infused with heaps of British heritage, bringing together the grounded utility of his countryside childhood with the glitzier lifestyle of his current London life. “I’m really inspired by my own history, my own heritage,” he tells me. “But actually, it wasn’t a conscious choice. I always used this light blue and burgundy combination together.

Then a couple of years in, one of my friends was, like, ‘you know that was the school rugby shirt colour?’ I hadn’t even thought about it. I just like, I like these colours.”

Fletcher innately understands his role as a contemporary designer. “I am inspired by what’s going on around. And if there’s something happening that I feel I want to talk about, then it just becomes part of the collection without even thinking about it,” he replies when I question him on whether he sees a responsibility to use his platform to be political.

For his SS17 collection, he took a stand against Brexit with the word “stay” embroidered onto the clothes. “Obviously, that was quite a big one because it was going to affect so many of us and it was so present. I really felt a need to go out and say something.”

In a similar manner, Fletcher is keen to avoid his clothing being categorised for men or women. “The way I look at it is, a shirt is a shirt, a jacket is a jacket. You should just find clothes that you love and ignore whether they are designed specifically for men or specifically for women,” he says.

“I started out as a menswear designer because the course that I had done at university was menswear. But now I think we’re in a completely different place in the world and that’s not so important anymore.”

DWF fw21Daniel w. Fletcher AW21 Campaign

But what is important to Fletcher is sustainability. Using dead stock leftover fabrics for collections, making the packaging recyclable and ensuring all materials are organic. These are the conscious decisions he is making to edge closer to a more environmentally friendly industry.

However, this just isn’t enough. “I think there needs to be some government enforced guidelines for brands to ensure they are operating in a sustainable way. But also, this needs to be led by the consumer as well. If the consumer says we are only buying positive and sustainable fashion, then it will force brands to change.”

Referencing British brands like Bethany Williams and Phoebe English as pivotal examples of leading this change, there needs to be a collective effort in the industry, he adds. “It needs to go up to H&M, to Zara, to ASOS and Misguided and then to Louis Vuitton, to all these brands. These massive brands are producing huge amounts of clothing and waste. They need to step up their game and make the same choice that we’re making as small labels … Imagine the impact that could have.”

On the topic of impact, Daniel Fletcher’s life drastically changed when he was approached to take part in Netflix’s Next in Fashion show, a competition that followed 18 designers competing for a prize of $250,000. “At first I was, like, I am not doing reality TV,” he laughs. However, ready for a new challenge he accepted. Coming second and winning over audiences across the world, Fletcher grew not only his brand’s social media following, but his exposure broadened his clientele list.

DWF fw21Daniel w. Fletcher AW21 Campaign

Now nearly two years on from the show, having dressed countless stars such as Olympian Tom Daley and singer Joe Jonas, and with the hope of going global with his brand again when travel fully reopens, I leave him with one final question: Who does he want to dress next? Hollywood stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya comes the swift response “Imagine him and Zendaya in full looks. That’d be really big.” But with Fletcher, nothing seems too out of reach.

by Imogen Clark