Creator Of The Iconic Dance Music Clothing Brand ‘DP’ Talks Exclusively to IUMApril 30, 2021
Daniel Poole is without doubt one of the greatest design influences on the early dance music scene for cutting edge club wear, unparalleled, unrivaled, unequaled.
As a successful fashion designer he’s built million pound businesses then lost them only to rebuild and work with some of the most famous people in the world. He designed the interior to the infamous Tony Pikes (RIP) hotel in Ibiza, partied with WHAM and lived the rock star jet set lifestyle whilst being a true punk at heart.
I spoke to Daniel over 2 interviews to nail down this incredible story of couture cuts, drugs, and parachuting out of planes on Acid!!!
This is his amazing story …..
Mike: Hi Daniel, good to talk to you. So kicking it off then, you had a huge influence on the early rave clubbing style of clothes with your DP brand and had worked with Tribal Gathering and the Universe raves. Can you tell us about how you started in fashion before becoming heavily involved with the embryonic dance scene?
Daniel: Hi Mike, I am well, thanks! So, I will tell you how I started, my mum was making couture clothes and my Dad was running at the athletics track for England and was a police officer. In the 70s psychedelic culture was massive – I would get my mum to remodel my uniform to put super big flares on them and I would wear platform shoes and then get sent home from school. I always got beat up for having this airy-fairy aura about me. I got thrown out of school for a few serious incidents like this one, I worked at this hairdresser in Harrow part-time and this dude next to me gave me these ‘Mandys’ which I took when I was sent out to dry the towels at the launderette.
and accidentally catapulted myself into the machine. I woke up in the hospital four days later wearing these pink pajamas in this white room going ‘fuckkk what the hell is going on here?’
They ended up kicking me out of the school because they framed me as being a drug addict and wouldn’t allow me to socialise with the other kids. All I did was neck two mandys, it was ridiculous cos I wasn’t selling to anyone.
So I left school at 16 and started my first job in fashion as a junior in Top Shop Oxford Circus working for a Denim Company that was opening shops throughout the UK. They quickly made me into a relief manager and I spent about three years on the road living in hotels all over the UK. It was the mid-70s and the beginning of Punk, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Marc Bolan -Denim and long hair was a radical look. Many of my friends were in bands and I guess I always focused on the clothes and the styling.
I started working for a designer in Carnaby Street and one of my colleagues, an Egyptian Pharmacy Student, would bring Egyptian, Greek, and Roman Antiquities home from Cairo to finance his studies. That interested me and I went to Cairo in 1976. It was like going to another planet. In Egypt then it was very rare for people to wear western clothes. I returned loaded with polyester dresses and flogged them, brought a load of antiques back, and flogged those in Paris and London. Over the next three years, I made about ten trips and just spent the money clubbing. In the UK I stayed with this girl in this council flat in Uxbridge until this love letter appeared from Countess Daisy De Bellevue who I had enjoyed a romantic fling within Paris and
she accidentally opened it, shortly after most of my clothes went out of the window!
This prompted a radical rethink as to what I would do with my life, which progressed into making a career as a criminal barrister. I had to take A levels at a college unknown to my friends. To support myself I started a business making and selling clothes to sex workers in SOHO and record companies and hip hairdressers in Mayfair which was an adventure.
I once shared a flat with a good mate, a top cameraman who was filming the likes of Madonna, he got me into to Cannes film festival with him, [think of big 80s glamour], another friend from college Andrew Ridgley started Wham. My best friend from Primary school also had a hit record with ‘Swans Way’ so it was quite significant seeing and experiencing all that around you.
College paid off, and I managed to pass my A levels (which shocked everyone completely), and then went to Warwick University to study law. I was lucky in them days as they paid you as a mature student.
when I eventually did my corporate law exam, I did a massive line of Charlie beforehand, and through the first half an hour I couldn’t even see the page and was laughing with the hysteria of it all!
I tried to train to be a barrister and it just put me off the whole criminal justice system completely because it stank and I just found a lot of it boring. I really struggled with it and I ended up not getting the points I needed to get into the Inns of Court School of Law automatically, so I visited the Dean and changed my whole appearance – got these boring haircuts and my friend lent me this suit and a pair of these silk socks. All through the interview all the Dean would look at was my silk socks haha, anyway I just thought
‘fuck that I am not doing this just stick with selling and designing clothes
I got my law degree and then started working for this guy who had started Ted Baker (clothing brand), fronting up a men’s side to his business for places like Topshop which I did for about 6 months and did really well. One of the fabric suppliers backed me with finance to set up independently. I was off, they set me up in a West-end Showroom and for about 4 or 5 years in the 80s, I built an amazing business eventually. My stuff was on TV a lot on programmes like the Clothes Show and I was working alongside big brands making Daniel Poole for Hennes, Topshop, and River Island and working all over the world. I opened about 40 shop in shops throughout the UK and my own stand-alone shop in Nottingham. I was making a lot of tailored clothes, David Bowie style suits with cropped short jackets and huge baggy high-waisted trousers. As well as stuff for my own shops. I made some huge contracts for Hennes and C&A.
Making big contracts gave me the power to really control the production process, not just creating the styles but often weaving and dying fabric, making buttons, printing the linings, contracting with the best factories. I employed my own technicians and ran a formal design studio in the West End. Aged 28 I was given a Queen’s Award for export.
From leaving school at 16 and travelling around the U.K. and then internationally followed on by studying politics, economics, economic history, and then three years at Law School gave me a kind of structured thought process which combined with my design talent made work really fun, easy and successful.
Then in 1987 interest rates went to 16% the economy collapsed, I got fucked over, and completely lost all my money
So I had to restart. A guy, who headed up the British fashion council for a while, but was a complete crook, a corporate gangster, invited me to join a new group of companies he had set up. He had a couple of good little labels located in North London on this trading estate, and I worked there and got friendly with another guy who was running this label who started Woodhouse. But, unfortunately after doing all this design work we didn’t get paid. We got handed these documents and what it read in other words was that I would have been signing over all my work rights over to this corporation. So, I thought ‘fuck off’ and that Sunday I went in when nobody was there and cleared my whole showroom with all my samples and snuck out of the building. Monday, I moved into a studio in SOHO. With no partners and free to do whatever I wanted!
Mike: That’s a lot of bouncing around man!
Daniel: I mean it wasn’t all easy man I had a lot of help. Ronnie Worrell who set up Woodhouse found us a shop in Covent Garden and I did a deal that he would run all the retail shops. I would just carry on doing what I was doing, the shops just looked completely bonkers and just fitted the quirky times in the early 90s. We opened one in Paris, one in Amsterdam, and then supplied small trendy boutiques in most of Europe, Japan, the USA.
At his time the Dance music scene had become so dominant, the whole thing it was a fresh new culture!
This was the early 90s and the Acid House scene had started a few years earlier, and was back in a really strong good open way. Like a lot of people, I felt really disenchanted by that whole ‘greed is good’ yuppie scene. Dealing with the corporates had left a really bad taste in my mouth. I was determined to just make nice clothes that me and my mates would wear. Outside of one-off club nights and hip London clubs in the late 80s you had to wear a suit and formal shoes to get into them. The door policy got really exclusive and the old ‘your names not down your not coming in’ bullshit.
I had been going to Les Bain Douche in Paris and working with a distributor there who gave me my first pill [e]. That opened my eyes
I wanted to make clothes in the same vein as the 70s Rock star stuff that I grew up on. These were lifestyle-based clothes like platform shoes, flared loon pants, and Afghan coats. Cloths made for hanging out in, getting wasted, looking comical.
The corporates liked to define everything and put things in departments. So you had formal wear, evening wear, sportswear, menswear, womenswear, youth, adults… From a design perspective, you had to define your brand values, identify your customer and their needs. Form would follow function so a sports jacket was different from a business jacket, rugby shorts different from football shorts. The big brands outside of the multiples were French and Italian like Chippy and Chevignon, Stone Island, Moschino. They had style and quality but were really expensive and screamed loads of money – they were just what cooler yuppies wore at the weekend. I liked the crusty traveller look of army pants, fluoro colours, punk graphics and I loved the ethos and politics that underlined it.
It was anti fashion in that the styles came from the streets, not the designers
I started applying the corporate analysis to my design process. What were the functional requirements? What were our brands values? Our functional requirements were – put on Friday, come home on Tuesday, no lost items, etc but in an ironic comical 90s way.
Our brand values were: no brand values, anti-fashion, anti-corporate, independent. I worked with Spiral Tribe, Manumission, Mutant, Android Waste, then Ministry, Obsession, Universe, the End, PlayStation, and Bigger Raves in Germany, Holland, and France!
The internet heralded the first global youth culture. Optimistic that the youth would unite and rise up against the impending danger of corporate slavery.
We promoted the rave vibe that “all are welcome”, no discrimination on grounds of race, colour, creed, gender, or sexuality, just have fun, harmless hedonism
Dance Culture rolled out across the UK and in a massive way in Germany then globally. As a company, we rolled with it and helped the progression.
Fashion works on various time loops so I would work on ideas for winter clothes in the summer. I took inspiration from everywhere, technology, music, climbing, skydive gear. Emergency services, Police, airport workers, Hip hop stars, snowboarders, skateboarders, and yes of course cheesy quavers with the babies dummy in the mouth, white gloves, Fluro nylon vests. The focus was mainly on men but the styling was unisex.
Mike: So is this when you were pushed your clubbing brand?
DP: I tried to make two different collections a year which is a lot of work. Starting in 1989 with more tailored clothes, Yuppies on Acid then Ghetto Couture, World Safety Systems, World Systems, Techno Couture, Techno Tribal, Sport Technic, World Sound Systems, Sky Dive Now, Trapper, Soft wear, FOAD, Bio-Tech 2000, Y2K
I spent 10 years just travelling either going to see a factory, distributor, or a club /rave promoters. It was a lot of fun …Pre-internet and mass travel you could smoke on the plane and providing you stayed well mannered (getting drunk was ok ) the cabin crew plied you with free drink. Its difficult to describe now cos any whiff of intoxication and the crew are obliged to call the Captain but then ….often I would go a few days without sleeping and make several flights on one trip. Just getting through the airport would be a challenge.
A couple of times I came out of the airport and forgot what country it was and once, why I was even there
A lot of pop stars and DJs liked the clothes and the DP logo was often in the press and TV. Mary J Blige even featured it on the front cover of her first album. So things snowballed and we had a lot of good fortune. I was in great demand for press interviews and TV appearances, explaining the clothes and rave culture.
I nurtured this Rockstar hard drinking /drug taking traveller personality as the face behind the label
We got sponsored by Sony and made a bizarre collab collection with the Startrek franchise that featured special pods to hold your lithium crystals.
To help with cash flow I worked a lot with this German company ghosting, they wouldn’t tell anyone it was me behind it they would just give you a lot of cash to do it. Things got so frantic that I flew to Loch Ness and stayed in a cabin for a week to catch up on design work undisturbed. I thought
if I don’t get myself out of this lifestyle I will either be dead or divorced and neither appealed to me
So I managed to license my DP brand to this Belgian company, and I trotted off to Malaysia where my wife is from.
The license never worked out but I had no great desire to keep making clothes. On my return to London, I worked on some costume design and TV shows with Craig Charles then I got into interiors and opened this art and design shop on Primrose Hill with famous clientele like Jude Law & Jamie Oliver. I also headed up the interior design for the infamous Pikes Hotel in Ibiza.
I hung out with Tony Pikes before he died, I mean it was an amazing experience, to be honest
Then three years ago I decided to relaunch my clothing brand myself and I have been doing that via my website. So here we are now that’s a lot of water under the bridge. I’m talking about 50 years; I was 63 recently! Really I’m a mid-century antique.
Mike: Did politics drive the music?
Daniel: Yes, you see these debates on social media but of course, raving was a political thing. It’s difficult for the kids to see what it was like then. We didn’t even have mobile phones so most of our business was done by trust, telephone, and fax. This whole thing of the internet and globalization came in quickly, and that was the thing that drove Techno and dance culture.
In the world we’re living in, youth and music have always provided an alternative to the bleakness but that seriously lacking at the moment
Spending that time studying economics and law, I believe in social justice, I mean it’s in your blood. Then it was this whole thing in the 80s with greed and Thatcher bringing in neoliberalism. It was just dreadful; the internet offered hope and a dream of freedom all over the world. The idea was the youth would rise up, but that wasn’t to be sadly the corporates have fought back and clamped everything down.
But anyway, getting back on track at my age of 63, live fast die young is history now it’s more live slow die later! There’s an old Irish saying
I want to live for a good time, not a long time
The whole thing with the rave scene was that it was totally about the craic. It’s all-inclusive as long as you bring a friendly vibe. I remember the death of it was Tribal Gathering at Luton, which I was quite involved in. The owner sold it off to these Fiddler gangsters after getting into a bit of trouble with them. These people tried to turn it into this whole stadium rock kind of vibe. You had little girls turning up with their mum, and it just wasn’t appropriate.
Mike: Like the EDM scene cheap, plastic, fuck off!
Daniel: Haha yes, inevitably, the overground always eats the underground. It would be nice to look to the future with some kind of optimism, but it’s quite hard at the minute. The pathways set up by Thatcher and Regan have prevailed and despite a brief period of a kind of youth culture rebellion (rave), we are worse than when we started.
Mike: Well man we will finish it here then, wicked conversation, Daniel thanks!
Daniel: Pleasure Mike!