19 January 2012


Words: Annika Hein

When a young Daniel Alexander began transforming his mother’s lace curtains into wedding dresses for his friends, little did he know, or could he have ever predicted, that these early career aspirations would result in being the youngest finalist in a open category at the Australian Fashion Awards as well as the youngest employee ever hired in the history of Gucci. So where does one go after returning from a fabulous stint at an international fashion house… back to Brisbane of course, to carve out a distinct niche and create and develop the successful label that is Daniel Alexander Couture. Through his couture label, Daniel has not only managed to gain a loyal band of followers and create a specific look and style, he has also conceptualised the somewhat undefinable idea of inspiration. Using movies as his focus point and creative reference, Daniel takes his audience on a visual journey season after season, ensuring there is a direct link to his inspirations and a strong element of dramatic story telling. This element and idea of drama is something that resonates strongly throughout all areas of not only the Daniel Alexander brand, but also the designer’s personal style, as he explores and investigates the concept of, ‘dressing up,’ or lack there of in today’s society. Daniel Alexander is a designer with talent and experience well beyond his years, he has a clear vision and a distinct aesthetic that is presented to us in the most fabulous, dramatised way. Fashion meets film in the world of Daniel Alexander and the camera never stops rolling.

Daniel Alexander began his career with aspirations of becoming an actor, however, when early renditions of his curtain inspired wedding gowns began making their way around his mother’s living room, all signs pointed to the fashion industry, “I never used to sew them,” explains Daniel, “I would just pull down the lace curtains and tie them around my friends while we played dress ups,” he laughs. Despite loving to sketch ever since he was little, it wasn’t until year 12 that Daniel really delved seriously into the fashion industry for the first time. When he was 17-years-old, Daniel entered the Australia Fashion Awards, choosing to compete in the open category, instead of the student section, “I actually entered against BORA and Paul Hunt and we all got through, which was pretty exciting for a 17-year-old. I was the youngest finalist in an open category,” exclaims Daniel.
“I mean really, why wouldn’t you want to dress up? A cute little dress looks better than jeans and a jumper any day of week.”
After testing his skills at Queensland University of Technology and then down in Sydney at acclaimed fashion company, CEO, Daniel was offered a coveted position at Gucci, and invited to work with the iconic Tom Ford. “At the time I had just turned 20,” explains Daniel, “So again, I was the youngest employee hired in Gucci history.” Despite this remarkable opportunity and incredible experience, Daniel admits he couldn’t have waited ten years to join the design team, “Gucci is an international brand and that’s the amount of time it takes to move to where I wanted to be. I was ready to do it myself, so I moved back to Brisbane and created my own brand.” The Daniel Alexander empire actually began as a menswear label derived from the evident gap in the market at the time, “Five years ago when I first started, there was a huge hole in the market! Since then however, more men’s labels have developed and as that happened, my focus gradually shifted to womenswear.” The first of Daniel’s full couture evening collections, entitled, ‘Danny Dearest,’ was released this year and marks the distinct separation within the brand between couture and ready-to-wear. “The current collection is made up of pieces that will be exclusively custom-made for the client,” explains Daniel. “This season there is so much fabric and work put into the designs that they are actually too expensive to create just to hang on the rack,” he says. Despite this shift in the couture label’s focus, Daniel ensures the Daniel Alexander brand will continue to reach all areas of the market, “We are still doing ready-to-wear, but it’s going to be under a separate label called, ‘DA by Daniel Alexander,’ and we’re also in the process of releasing a streetwear label called, ‘Crooked,’ which will be classic, sleek, simple casual wear.” Admittedly, the talented designer is not motivated by trends, instead drawing inspiration from classic dressing, precision and technique, “I have a lot of respect for modern art and modern furniture, but modern clothing is just not me, mine’s more traditional European and I think that transcends through all elements of my work.” As a result of the classic, elaborate designs, the structure within Daniel’s pieces have to be technically perfect, “The dresses are so heavy and they sometime incorporate up to 35 metres of fabric,” explains Daniel, “This is why the structure has to be amazing, to provide the necessary amount of support, and it’s great because you can actually open them up and see all the work and the detail. We invest more time in things to make them perfect,” he says proudly.

Daniel’s work and creative talent not only reflects a strong idea, look and sense of quality, but his collections also embrace and portray a distinct story. When asked about his inspiration and influences, Daniel answers without any hesitation, “Well, movies of course!” The last three seasons of Daniel’s collections have seen the label embrace the likes of Studio 54, My Fair Lady and most recently Mommie Dearest, “After my first collection, ‘The Polo Club Collection,’ which took inspiration from the polo scene in Pretty Woman, movies began to be the focus of the design process and we actually show the graduation of the films, in terms of the time line as well,” he says. Through his collections, Daniel is adamant to tell a story, “I don’t think a lot of designers do that any more,” he explains, “They bring pieces out of the archives and reproduce them, our archives however, are the movies, we don’t copy things but we definitely take inspiration.” The way in which the inspiration transcends through the collection however, Daniel explains, is all interpretive. An evident correlation can be drawn in the current collection between the elaborate chiffon jacket and Joan Crawford’s nightgown in Mommie Dearest, “It looked nothing like a nightgown on the runway,” ensures Daniel, “However, if you have seen the movie, you totally get the look and I think now, after three years of cohesive shows and really being diligent about which movie to do each season, people are starting to get it and it’s becoming obvious.” However, the shows are not only cohesive within their choices of inspiration, all involved elements are specifically chosen to work with and complement each other, reflecting a strong distinct message to the audience. Daniel explains in regards to the new collection, “The soundtrack was added and cuttings from the movie were subtly incorporated as well to tie it all together. Runway shows are for shows, people want aspiration, they want to be fulfilled and that’s why we put so much effort into ensuring everything comes together.” Through his love affair with films and movies, Daniel’s aim is to truly transcend the drama and the glamour from his inspiration into his collection, “The drama of the pieces, especially in the evening dresses, is where you actually see me and what I’m trying to represent, I’ll have a vision and I’ll see something coming down the runway, and then the other pieces just sort of fall into place,” he muses. The volume is obviously exhilarated in order to ensure the collection consists of couture pieces, however, Daniel’s aim is to bridge the gap between couture and costume, “Everything I am inspired by in the movies I will times by ten up to 100 in order to make it my own, however, at the same time, we’re trying to create this aspect of wearable couture.” Daniel, who takes pride in the fact that he’s not trying to do things that other people are doing, is constantly evolving and breaking the boundaries as he surges forward through the fashion industry and his Fortitude Valley studio is no exception. The recent move to his new creative space has allowed Daniel to develop a truly interactive experience for his clients. The focus is to have all the pieces on mannequins, and Daniel aims to get a new girl every time a new dress comes in, in order to create a runway effect along the side of the studio, “It’ll be a really interactive space that will take you an hour to go through,” explains Daniel excitedly, “As the collections grow so will the interaction aspect, it’ll be like a wax museum for fashion!” he laughs.

Daniel’s love for and relationship with glamour and drama has not only resulted in beautiful storylines for each of his collections, but also ensured he remains a strong advocate of the art of dressing up and as a result this is a concept that resonates heavily through all elements of the brand. Daniel, who lives by the belief that t-shirts are for shopping and wearing around the house only, explains, “There is a huge lack of dressing up at the moment, people just feel that it’s too much of an effort but it’s actually really easy to do.” In saying that however, Daniel acknowledges that although fashion is glamorous, people need a reason and an excuse to make the effort, “It has started happening again and I’m all for it, I think it’s great!” he exclaims. People, society and events are slowly re-visiting this idea and concept of black tie, and Daniel’s openly embracing the prestigious shift, “I mean really, why wouldn’t you want to dress up? A cute little dress looks better than jeans and a jumper any day of week,” he laughs. Daniel believes that his elaborate designs and fashion beliefs are a reflection of his own personal style, “I really love accessories,” he admits before explaining, “It’s the little personal details you add which are really going to bring the drama and you just have to have fun with it.” During his time with Gucci, a then 20-year-old Daniel had somewhat of an aversion to the standard black and white uniforms, which were a replica of the suit Mr Tom Ford wore himself, “At the time, I thought, ‘Oh that’s really boring, who wears the same suit everyday?’” says Daniel, who used to change into a collection of crazy outfits for his walk home after work each day. Some eight years later however, Daniel finds himself doing exactly the same thing, “I used to think Tom, [Ford], was a real cop out for a while, I mean I still loved and admired him, but I thought he was lazy,” he laughs before continuing, “Now I understand that it’s just smart dressing, you identify yourself with a look and then add the accessories to personalise your outfit.” Experimentation is key in developing your look and you have to have the confidence to try things on and test them out, “A lot of the time people don’t have the guts to try something on and that’s where the problem is, you really don’t know until you give something a chance,” says Daniel. A loyal devotee to the likes of Tom Ford, Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano, Daniel finds himself connecting to the drama and artistry of the international high fashion world, “I have always been a fan of both Westwood and Galliano, says Daniel, “He, [Galliano], has a more masculine perspective on drama, while hers, [Westwood’s], is a lot softer. Then there’s Tom, who is such a visionary, his designs are modern and architectural and although that’s not necessarily my style, I have a great deal of respect for him.”
“Runway shows are for shows, people want aspiration, they want to be fulfilled and that’s why we put so much effort into ensuring everything comes together.”
The concept of inspiration plays a dominant role within the Daniel Alexander Couture brand. Through the use of film, cinema and movies Daniel has, and continues to, successfully take both his audience and his clients on an interactive, dramatic and theatrical journey, guiding them through a storyline that comes to life through each seasonal collection. As Daniel surges forward in the fashion industry with his sights set for the international market, he continues to carve out a distinct niche for himself here in Australia, always aiming to produce runways shows and collections that embody the upmost creativity, drama and artistry. His unique source of inspiration adds the crucial elements of frivolity and fun, allowing Daniel to reinvent himself and his designs season after season. Daniel’s personal opinion and idea about the concept and art of dressing up is a vital component in ensuring all elements of the Daniel Alexander brand remain cohesive. It is something that resonates with the designer both personally and on a professional level, and as a result there is a direct reflection within all collections. Daniel Alexander is successfully merging the worlds of fashion and film, taking us on a fabulous couture filled journey of drama, bringing his inspirations to life in a way that allows everyone to connect.

No comments:

Post a Comment