Daniel Poole interview.
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
UK Streetwear pioneer, Daniel Poole established his self-titled brand in 1987 during the dawn of Britain’s rave scene. The brand visually references German Techno and Acid-House and converges these elements with functionality and sportswear elements to create a range of hardwearing, practical street garments.
As the 90’s drew to a close, Poole resigned from the fashion industry in order to focus on his family life and Interior design career. This year Poole relaunched the brand, initially collaborating with brother and action sports designer, Lawrence Poole for a capsule of functional bags. Poole has since involved his eldest son Raff for a series of T-shirts released last month on the brand’s website.
With the DP brand’s explosive relaunch, we thought what better time to discuss with the infamous British designer his origins and future plans.
Obviously, your work has heavy links to the 90’s rave scene, what was your initial brand concept?
I never had a brand concept other than not having a brand concept. I hated that notion and the idea of making something up to fit a perceived marketing niche. Those corporate structures that came out of the 80's yuppiedom were everything I hated.
My idea was just to make clothes that were good value and functional. The styling and graphics were decoration. I wanted them to be egalitarian.
I like the notions of sportswear and workwear i.e. designing something for a particular activity.
The activities I was interested in were working and then going out and maybe not coming home for a few days in the same clothes.
That provided a functional design brief.
What prompted you to begin a fashion label? how did you start your brand and how did it evolve?
My Mum was a couture dressmaker and I was interested in fashion as a teenager. I would get her to make my clothes - I remodelled all of my school uniform. It was the 70's and fashion was much more interesting back then, than it is now. I was into David Bowie, T Rex, Lou Reed.
I was sent home from school for wearing 6-inch platform boots, with high waisted flared trousers, a tulip lapel blazer, and a shirt with a jumbo jet collar.
At 13 I started working in boutiques as a Saturday Boy, I left school at 16 and then worked for a designer in Carnaby Street called Aristos. A pretty girl of the same age hired me called Candy. She then married Aristos. In the 80's I read in the news of the world she could not stand him and got a hit man to murder him!
I started travelling abroad buying and selling clothes and remodelling things. I went to college along with Andrew Ridgeley and George Michael. It was the time of the Blitz Kids, Spandau ballet, Steve Strange and Boy George etcetera. Everyone on the scene knew everyone else. Club Kids.
I went to University at 22 then when I graduated Ray Kelvin who owns Ted Baker gave me a job as designer/ salesman for his new menswear label.
A cloth supplier then recommended me to some other fashion people and they suggested I open ‘danielpoole’ as a supplier to the big store groups doing own label and colabs.
I was lucky and won a feature in a BBC tv show the Clothes Show and a Queens Award for Export.
Was it just you designing, or did you have various collaborators?
I had my own sample room and pattern cutter with two sample machinists. I would chat with them as them as to what I wanted in the morning and by the evening we had a new jacket or waistcoat.
The buyers would also come up with ideas as to what they wanted. The buyers at H&M would watch an old movie or something and say they liked the men’s duffle coat in it for example.
I would also just produce small ranges. After a year or two I opened my own shop in shops and a stand-alone shop in Nottingham. I loved the freedom of being able to make whatever I liked. I was mainly making what was then called casual tailoring. I did one collection called Yuppies on Acid.
Towards the end of the 80's I got more interested in Sportswear and no longer wanted to make for other people at all. Along with Duffer of St George, Slam City Skates, Box Fresh, Komodo, Gio-Goi, we formed a little trade group and started showing our ranges collectively. We went to Japan, USA and Germany, drunk a lot took tons of drugs and had some great parties. The notion of streetwear did not exist then and that was the start of the UK Streetwear industry.
I got into German Techno and that was reflected in my clothes. I opened boutiques in Neal Street, Old Compton Street and in Amsterdam and Paris.
Some good friends owned the best Rave company ‘Universe’ and we aligned a lot with them.
By 2000 I was feeling really burnt out, my second son was born, and my wife was threatening to leave me if I did not calm down. I closed everything down and focused on interior design. My sons are now grown up and with them we have relaunched.
You mentioned how influences like German techno inspired your clothes, can you expand upon this?
Most of the European sports and work wear was retro inspired, in Germany the street workers wore new futurist styles in dayglo colours and reflective materials. The style was future techno. The German techno music that flowed was what we called at the time more hardcore and sounded like the kind of music robots dressed in that style would wear while making 100’s of miles of autobahns motorways.
A lot of streetwear was work wear, from American companies like Carhartt and Dickies and the jeans companies of the 70’s that I worked with like Lee, Wrangler and Levi's - clothes for what was then called blue collar workers. The new German workers wore techno workwear.
The men’s wear industry focused traditionally on function and activity. Formal wear, evening wear, sportswear, work wear. My customers liked to wear the same clothes for any occasion, the techno workwear styling based around functionality fitted that.
Can you give us a little insight into what the rave scene from the 90s was like?
The major thing was that it was inclusive rather than exclusive. All were welcome, as long as you were considerate to others and preferably added to the atmosphere by making them laugh by ridiculous dancing or a funny outfit. The vibe was just fun, fun and fun. I often went out with a well-known lady called the ‘Acid Granny’, who was about 70 but looked over a 100. Race, social class, sexuality, wealth, occupation any other criteria that you could be prejudged for were simply not relevant.
Thanks to Everyone at Daniel Poole.
You can Browse DP’s latest releases here Danielpoole.com
Written by: Jamie Moses
Images Courtesy of Daniel Poole