Inside HERO 28

“My brand is so personal, it’s inspired by my experience of life” – Daniel Fletcher in conversation with Tom Daley
By Alex James Taylor | Fashion | 1 November 2022

At Daniel w. Fletcher’s FW22 presentation, models stepped out wearing ultra-long football scarves knitted by the designer’s close friend, Olympian diver-slash-knitting-maestro, Tom Daley. Crafted in the red and white of Manchester United, the scarves were part of a poignant tribute from Fletcher to his late, football-mad father, Pete.

Described by Daniel as his “most personal collection yet”, more of Pete’s passions and sensibilities emerged: there was a reinterpretation of a 70s United jersey – the one that makes you think of Best, Law and Charlton – and a striped leather vest inspired by a family photo of his dad. While Fletcher’s penchant for the louche and sexy strutted to the beat of Mick Jagger and his Rolling Stones (Daniel’s first-ever gig, attended with his dad when he was eleven), most sensationally via a series of ethereal organza headpieces created by Noel Stewart in reference to David Bailey’s album artwork for the band’s 1973 record, Goats Head Soup.

Those aforementioned scarves knitted by Tom during his intense schedule – in rare moments between competitions and training – were born from a text from Daniel: “Is there any chance you could make a couple of scarves?” And while it was a close call, Tom came through just in time. His payment? Sewing lessons from Daniel, apparently.

Daniel Flecther: I feel like we’ve been ships in the night recently, we’ve been in the same place but then not in the same place.
Tom Daley: Our diaries are hectic! There is no way we can ever meet up at the same time. We missed each other in New York, we missed each other in LA, and we missed each other in London.

DF: I flew to New York the day you flew back, vice-versa with LA as well, and then in Paris last week, too.
TD: I only flew back for my birthday because we were going to stay for Harry Styles but we didn’t.

DF: The show was spectacular, I would really recommend it. I’m glad we finally get to have this chat, I feel like whenever we do hang out it’s never really an appropriate time to sit down and talk about our careers. [laughs]
TD: It’s always a dinner or social event, and then if I have dinners at my house usually before we’ve even sat down to have dinner there have been many glasses of bubbles. So yes, this is probably a more appropriate time to chat [laughs].

DF: I think the thing you’re leaving out of the conversation here is the fact my phone is currently smashed because the last time I saw you, you made me get on the back of a bike in the middle of London Bridge with someone also on the front. I feel like I nearly broke my thumb, my phone is smashed and poor Robbie’s [Daley’s son] cake ended up splattered all over the road in the middle of London Bridge.
TD: The next day when he was like “Where’s my cake, Papa?” I was like, “Um, so about that cake…” We’ve had some fun times for sure, I’m trying to think back to what year we actually met.

DF: It was in the first year or two of my brand, I’d graduated and started the label straight away. I think the agent that took me on at the time sent you some clothes, or something like that. Then I bumped into you in a bar, we just chatted and then you invited me for dinner at your house.
TD: Yes! I used to do Monday night dinner clubs, I need to get back on that.

DF: You do, but you’ve had quite a hectic few years, Olympics and all that! [laughs] But I remember you inviting me for dinner and me being like, “This is so out of the blue but lovely, I’d love to come.” I sat next to Jay [Clarke, who performs in drag as Jodie Harsh] and we were chatting away for an hour or so, then he was like, “I do drag actually,” and I was like, “Oh great, do you do it as a full-time job then?” [both laugh] He was out of drag so I had no idea it was Jodie Harsh.
TD: Exactly, nobody really knows what she looks like out of drag, which is the fun thing about dinner club. It was always a really eclectic group of people. Because I was training all the time I didn’t get much time to actually go out and about to do dinners or things like that, so it was a good way to see everyone all at once, it was good fun.

DF: I remember another time I put my foot in it with Matthew Bourne [British choreographer], he was just introduced to me as Matt and then we were all chatting and he was talking about the fact he was doing Cinderella at the time. I’d seen all these posters for the panto on the tube and I was like, “Oh yeah, the panto!” Everyone just laughed and I didn’t get it, it wasn’t until I got home and Googled that I realised it was Matthew Bourne – the greatest British choreographer in history. [laughs]
TD: It’s funny because I don’t tell anyone who is coming, I probably should say, “This person is coming and they do this,” to give people a heads-up. I think it’s quite nice for people to be able to get into a group where they’re not surrounded by people they know, it’s a fun way to do it.

DF: It is, I always have such a great time. Now that you’re not in an Olympics year and you’re able to drink, we can do lots more!
TD: Exactly, I can have a bit more fun. Going back to when we met, I remember the first time wearing your clothes. It was the shirts in particular with the pocket, and I remember I had two – a cream one with a white pocket outline and a black one with a navy outline. Then you sent me that camel-coloured jacket.

all clothing by DANIEL w. FLETCHER FW22; MADE WITH LOVE for DANIEL w. FLETCHER hand-knitted scarves by TOM DALEY, necklace, worn throughout, model’s own; shoes, worn throughout, by GRENSON

DF: This is true vintage Daniel w. Fletcher now. I designed one of those shirts in my graduate collection, which are the ones that Harry [Styles] bought and they became my signature shirt. The two you’ve got were from my FW16 collection, which I designed two months after I finished uni, I did this little presentation on my own without being on the fashion week schedule. I really didn’t know what I was doing, I just put this collection out there. The camel jacket you have was FW16 too, so we’re talking five years ago – get those on eBay! [laughs] There are probably only about ten of them as well, that’s the funny thing, we hardly made any of the pieces from those really early collections.
TD: I wear them all the time because they fit really well, it’s a shirt you don’t actually have to tuck in for it to be the right length. I’ve always worn your stuff, I think the first time I wore something custom from you was the Attitude Awards last year, right?

DF: I think so, yeah. It was inspired by the shirt from Next in Fashion [Daniel competed in Netflix show Next in Fashion in 2020] with stars, this kind of jockey vibe. That was a nice moment, I really enjoyed that.
TD: Yeah, and with the cummerbund. Basically, a corset sucking me in. [laughs] The trousers were a shiny satin material that split at the front. I wore a neckerchief too, that was my first time wearing a neckerchief.

DF: I actually have the neckerchief you wore at my house, because we had the party afterwards when you lost your phone.
TD: Yeah, I left it in the Uber.

DF: I always see that neckerchief in my drawer and I’m like, “Tom can have that one day.”
TD: I feel like my wildest ones are always with you.

DF: You’d come straight from Paris and you had this big bump on your head, so I feel like you’d already had quite a wild one. [laughs]
TD: I’d come from fashion week in Paris, we’d done a Louis Vuitton show and it was non-stop. That was a fun thing as well when we got to do fashion week this year in February, I remember it well because I was about to start my Comic Relief Hell of a Homecoming challenge and you messaged saying, “Is there any chance you could make a couple of scarves?” [both laugh]

DF: You must’ve learned this now having started doing your own collection, but knitwear production is the biggest nightmare out of everything I do. We only really started getting into knitwear properly last year, it was maybe a week before the show and the whole collection was inspired by my dad. He was a huge football fan and the only football matches I’d ever been to were with him, so I wanted to do some football scarves and I thought, “Out of all my friends, who is the best knitter I know?” It was you. It did not time well [laughs]. What did you do for the challenge?
TD: It was literally three days before the challenge started and, I remember I didn’t know if I was going to be able to go to the show because of getting back during Storm Eunice. On the first day, it was a ten-mile row and a 60-mile bike ride, on the second day it was a one-mile swim and a 60-mile bike ride, the third day was a 120-mile bike ride and then the last day was an ultra-marathon, which is 31 miles. In between that, whenever I went back to the hotel I was just sitting there knitting. [laughs]

DF: I watched the documentary you did for that on BBC and you were actually knitting the scarf in the documentary.
TD: On my lunch breaks, I took it on the road with me!

DF: That is a good friend, I really do appreciate it. I didn’t think it would get done and, in the end, I got one of my interns who was like, “I think I can kind of knit,” [speaks in a Welsh accent], she’s Welsh [laughs]. She got a YouTube video up, I had a ‘Made with Love By Tom Daley’ knit kit you’d sent me, and she knitted a scarf, it was not at the level of yours, but it was a backup plan. But you came through.
TD: That’s good because I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get it done. I had to do it and then get it blocked to get it all set so it didn’t fluff everywhere, they were long scarves as well.

DF: It’s so funny to hear you talk about the knit process and making those garments because you actually know so much more about that area of fashion than I do. I don’t know how to knit, when you were sending me knit stitches asking what I wanted for the scarves I was like, “I don’t know actually,” because it’s such a specific thing. At university I studied menswear specifically, so I learned a lot about tailoring, pattern-cutting and machine sewing, but I didn’t learn anything about knitwear. It’s amazing to see you have taken this thing that I know started as a hobby, of just you doing something to fill your time when you were training, to now knowing this much about it. You have a knitwear brand now. The stuff I see you knit, some people have been doing it for twenty years to get to that point.
TD: I started literally two weeks before lockdown happened, so I’ve been doing it for two-and-a-bit years now. I remember starting it because my coach told me I couldn’t sit still and I needed to find something where I could rest and recover.

“I wanted to do some football scarves and I thought, “Out of all my friends, who is the best knitter I know?” It was you.”

all clothing by DANIEL w. FLETCHER FW22; MADE WITH LOVE for DANIEL w. FLETCHER hand-knitted scarves by TOM DALEY, necklace, worn throughout, model’s own; shoes, worn throughout, by GRENSON

DF: Knowing you, I can understand that. [laughs]
TD: Because I’m always so busy, I need something to distract myself to be able to sit down. It was actually Lance who said, “You should do knit squares or something like that, most people do that on set, maybe that will help.” Of course, me being me, I got obsessed with it.

DF: A square was not enough.
TD: No. I went on YouTube and I was learning all these things, and each thing was something new. I absolutely loved it, then I learned how to crochet. Just before the Olympics, I had a meeting with my team and they said, “What do you want to do afterwards? Do you want to do a podcast or TV? What do you want to do on your year out?” I was like, “Honestly, I just want to become a knitwear designer and sit on the beach with a margarita,” and they all laughed. Then the Olympics happened and people saw me knitting, then they were like, “Actually, maybe we could start doing these little knit kits and if you’ve got time to design them, talk to pattern writers to be able to bring them to life, you can size them up or down.” Because I can always make a sample, but that’s only one size, so I have to make samples of XS all the way to XXL.

DF: Do you knit each sample then?
TD: Yeah. I knitted the Christmas jumper sample and some of the scarves. Then for lots of them, I do the gauges and swatches in terms of colour combinations and stitches. Then it becomes maths basically, working out based on a 10×10 centimetre square, knowing how many stitches by how many rows. Then you can size it up or down based on how wide it needs to be. There’s a lot of maths that goes into it, which is kind of fun for me because I got an A in A-Level Maths.

DF: Oh, well done. [laughs]
TD: It’s just really fun for me to be able to explore the fashion side of things, because for so long all I’ve done is sport. I get to the pool, I put my trunks on and off I go. It’s nice to be able to wear whatever I want now, it’s been really fun to build that creative outlet for people to get knit kits and start to branch into some ready-to-wear stuff. I felt like a proud mum of my little scarves going down the runway, they were the first things I’ve ever done that have appeared at fashion week.

DF: It’s been really amazing to see that take off. How far into your year off are you now?
TD: I’m coming to the end of it, the Olympics finished in the middle of August last year so I’ve got a little bit longer left, but it’s been really nice.

DF: How do you feel about the prospect of going back? Have you been on a diving board this year?
TD: No.

DF: Wow. Imagine you’ve developed a fear of heights or something. [laughs]
TD: I know, I’ve not been back since Tokyo. I’m just going to make that decision in August, sit down with my coach and figure out exactly what it is I want to do in terms of how many events, whether I want to do synchro and individual as well or try springboard.

DF: With diving do you have to be doing it every day, full-time training or is it something you could do three days a week and then four days a week for the rest of your life? Because you and I know you want to be the best at everything you do, you’re all-or-nothing.
TD: I probably could make the team by doing that, I could maybe win a medal, but I don’t like to half-arse anything. You’ve got to use your whole arse [both laugh]. If I put myself into something, I want to do it. There are other things I want to do, including expanding ‘Made with Love’, we also need to figure out a time for you to teach me how to sew and set up the sewing machine.

DF: Have you even taken it out of the box yet?
TD: No.

DF: I think it was last November you text me saying, “Lance [Black, Daley’s husband] is going to buy me a sewing machine for Christmas, which one should I get?” And I was like, “I’ll come over and give you a lesson.” We will do that.
TD: I just don’t want to take it out of the box and set it up wrong, then it becomes a disaster.

DF: It is hard, I didn’t know how to use one for so long. My first ever sewing machine was one of those John Lewis ones that have numbers on to thread it, and I was still breaking it every time, but I’ll show you, you’re in safe hands.
TD: To learn how to pattern cut and do all of that stuff, I almost was like, “Maybe I should go back to university or college.” But finding the time to go to university and learn how to do it all properly seems so overwhelming.

all clothing by DANIEL w. FLETCHER FW22; MADE WITH LOVE for DANIEL w. FLETCHER hand-knitted scarves by TOM DALEY, necklace, worn throughout, model’s own; shoes, worn throughout, by GRENSON

“I’m just totally open to what the brand can be now, when I started it I was very much in a place where I thought, “This is what is expected of a brand and a designer…”

DF: I really respect people who do that though, when I graduated I had this job offer from Louis Vuitton then another brand in Sweden and I didn’t know what to do. My tutor was like, “Well actually this actor wants to come and learn about fashion because he’s doing a capsule collection for a brand in Spain,” and it was Antonio Banderas. So he was like, “Do you want to come and spend six weeks with Antonio and teach him about fashion?” So the first job I had when I graduated in July was spending the whole of August with Antonio, we did life drawing, pattern cutting, sewing, we made a shirt, we went to Paris to a fabric fair and he was so into it. He really worked super hard, he made a shirt by the end of it and he learned to pattern cut a pair of jeans. It was so he could get an understanding of fashion to then go and work with this brand in Spain to design a capsule collection.
TD: There are so many questions I have about pattern cutting and how you even go about making the initial one in the first place, but I guess that’s what you learn at university, then practice makes perfect. It’s the same with knitting, the first shirt you make probably won’t fit [laughs]. How long does it take to make a shirt?

DF: I could make one in a day but it depends if you’re doing the pattern as well. If you have a pattern to go from, you can do one in maybe five hours, but if you have to make a pattern, it can take multiple samples and fittings. When I do a show for example, I might start from a block, which is maybe a jacket I made before, then we fit it on a model and change things, we’ll make the sleeve really big, or make the jacket much longer. So we’ll do a new pattern, then we’ll do a sample, and then we fit that before we go onto the final one, so the process can be long. We could do a shirt in a day and maybe I’ll do a few seams for you. [laughs]
TD: You might have to show me one, then I’ll do the others. I’ll do one side of it that will be falling off, then your side will be perfect, I think it’d be fun to do that together and then maybe even in the future do a knitwear collaboration.

DF: I know you’re a big Fiorucci fan, so maybe that.
TD: I am a huge Fiorucci fan, most things I wear outside the house now are Fiorucci. Same with Lance, I think mainly because of my relationship with you, as it came into my sphere when you took over [Daniel was appointed menswear artistic director at Fiorucci in 2019]. Lance saw it and he was like, “Oh my gosh I remember this from the 70s and 80s, I used to wear this then and I have a jacket from back in the day.” I think it was fun for Lance to see it come back around again.

DF: New York history and the history of LA is really interesting, that’s why I’ve been going back-and-forth a lot recently. We launched a pop-up at Fred Segal in LA, then we just shot the new campaign in New York. There is such a history of Fiorucci in the US, particularly that 59th Street store and all the artists that were part of that. Apparently, Andy Warhol used to go in every day on his way to the studio because the factory was just opposite, he used to go and get an espresso there because he said it was the best coffee in New York.
TD: Oh wow.

DF: There’s a really nice history there.
TD: That’s so cool. I guess it’s fun to be able to work with something like that. Obviously you have your brand, then when you work with someone like Fiorucci, how much of ‘you’ can you put into it?

DF: Fiorucci has such a strong identity because it’s steeped in history, it’s really inspired by the disco scene, Studio 54 and the 70s when it was in its heyday. It was only brought back five years ago and I’m really trying to pay homage to what it was back then. I think as a result, it designs itself almost. The archive is so incredible and that’s any designer’s dream. My brand is so personal, it’s inspired by my experience of life. This latest collection was inspired by my dad and the impact he had on me. It’s so personal I think they’ll never be similar, but there are obviously crossovers because I have a style – I like a flared trouser and a sexy shirt. There is that element, but in terms of the inspiration, they feel really different from each other.
TD: It’s really cool to see it take off in that way. I’m curious, what’s next for Daniel Fletcher?

DF: I want to spend more time in the US actually, that is something I have really been thinking about recently. I know it’s something you have talked about as well, you love it there. I’m just totally open to what the brand can be now, when I started it I was very much in a place where I thought, “This is what is expected of a brand and a designer, you come out of uni, you do a show every season and you build your wholesale stockists.” But I think the world has really changed – it’s in a different place. I don’t think I need to stick to the traditional fashion week schedule. Over lockdown, it became very casual, we had lots of denim and jersey because that’s what people were wearing, but with this show I really went back to the roots of what the brand is about, it’s much more about dressing up, and it’s a little bit more formal, it’s a bit sexier. I don’t care about designing sweatshirts that much, I want to be creating things you haven’t seen before.
TD: Sexy tailoring.

DF: Sexy tailoring. I’m really looking at expanding that side of Daniel w. Fletcher, more suits and more event dressing. I’m doing my firstvwedding in July, it’s two guys and they came and told me what they lovedvfrom the collection, so we’ve done custom. One of them has gone full split trouser, cream tuxedo, halter-neck, and then the other has gone navy double-breasted suit but with a big cummerbund around the waist, bow-tie shirt, split hem. Its full DwF looks down the aisle, which I’m excited about.
TD: I love that, that’s so cool to be able to do that for someone’s special day.

DF: Maybe if you and Lance decide to do a vow renewal anytime soon…
TD: I know, we should!

DF: Was it your five-year anniversary recently?
TD: Yeah we just had five years, we said at ten years we would do a vow renewal. Christopher Bailey designed our wedding suits when he was still at Burberry, so it was cool to have that. Fashion is changing so quickly with the tailoring and I don’t feel like guys wear really traditional tailoring anymore: a suit, shirt and tie. It’s all changed so dramatically. What’s interesting is when people go to events and they say it’s black-tie, you don’t see that traditional penguin-style anymore. People go in their own way, which I think has been really cool in the last few years to see how guys are starting to step out of the box and create interesting looks. When people were walking down the red carpet before, it was always about what the girls were wearing because the guys would just wear a suit, but now it’s so much more interesting than that.

DF: On that note, I saw you went to the Met Gala this year, was it your first time?
TD: First time ever at the Met Gala, it’s so surreal. Have you ever been?

DF: I’ve never been, when I go I want it to be a moment. I want to dress someone really cool. I would love to go, so if Anna is reading this, hopefully she can sort me out [both laugh].
TD: It’s so surreal, you walk up the steps and that’s all everyone ever really sees. It’s the only event you go to completely on your own, you go with whoever you’re going with and whoever is on your table, but essentially you’re going on your own. Normally you have someone you know or a plus one. Once you get inside The Met, there is a cocktail reception. Anna Wintour is there with the hosts, this year it was Tom Ford, Timothée Chalamet, and Naomi Osaka, people are just welcoming you in. Anna Wintour was talking to me about knitting and I was just like, “What on earth is this?” The doors knitting has opened! [both laugh] You walk into that room and you just have to find someone to talk to you’re thrown into having to socialise with some of the most famous people in the world.

DF: I always wonder what part of The Met it takes place in because I went to see the exhibition. There is a sit-down dinner and performances on the stage, where is that?
TD: When you go through the exhibition from the entrance, you turn left at the end of the corridor and there is a large open space with big windows.

DF: Does it have a glass ceiling with sculptures in it?
TD: Yes! The tables are all in and around there, they have a stage, they have a performance of some musical theatre and then there is a surprise performance. Last September it was Justin Bieber and he came out in a full balaclava, the interesting thing was it was done by half-past ten.

DF: Then it’s all about the after-parties.
TD: Yeah, everyone goes to the after-parties but it was so surreal to think it’s over by half-past ten. Some people just do the carpet and leave.

DF: They don’t hang around?!
TD: No. And some people go all the way in, then they change once they get to the top of the staircase and are wearing something completely different.

DF: I can understand why though, having seen some of the things people wear, like Katy Perry in a burger dress.
TD: You can’t sit down in that. It’s so interesting to see it from the inside. One of the most surreal moments from that was when I went to the loo on the way out and Troye Sivan was the only person I knew there, so I was like “Where are we going afterwards? Let’s stick together.”

DF: Had you not already made a plan?
TD: Well, we knew we were going to the Boom Boom Room, but that was as far as it got, but I didn’t want to turn up on my own either. We went to the toilet before we left and Troye was wearing a dress, we walk into this bathroom and Rihanna was just standing by the sink in the men’s bathroom. Troye’s having a wee at the urinal with a dress on and Rihanna is like, “Somebody’s got to take a photo of that,” I was like “I’ll do it!” She was like, “No you’ve got to go from this angle,” and was directing me – it was so bizarre. Once all this was said and done, Shawn Mendes walks in and was like, “What on earth is going on here?” Honestly, as soon as I left the bathroom I bumped into Emma Raducanu who was waiting outside, and Camila Cabello and Hailey Bieber just chilling. I’ve never felt more out of place in my life, but it was such an experience.

DF: So what is next for Tom Daley then? I feel like that’s a big question for you given you’ve just had this big year off to enjoy yourself.
TD: It’s a pivotal moment. Do I go back to diving? Do I not? Am I going to change my events? Or am I going to focus on ‘Made with Love’ and go down that route? There are so many things I have to consider and think about in these next couple of months. But at the same time, it’s exciting because I’ve achieved everything I wanted to in the world of sport, so if I go back it’s for the love of it and because I really want to. Maybe I’ll go back this year, maybe I’ll go back next year – I don’t know. For me right now, I’m having so much fun with ‘Made with Love’, expanding that and seeing where it can go, hopefully, there are some exciting things to come, but it’s been a whole process. Honestly, my mission is, by the end of next year I want to be able to say I can make a piece of clothing. That’s my aim.

DF: We can definitely make that happen.

all clothing by DANIEL w. FLETCHER FW22; MADE WITH LOVE for DANIEL w. FLETCHER hand-knitted scarves by TOM DALEY, necklace, worn throughout, model’s own; shoes, worn throughout, by GRENSON

Interview originally published in HERO 28.

MEGURO at FUTURE REP; make-up JO FROST; casting LYLY BUI; make-up assistant JODIE JACOBS

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