Described in i-D's 1994 Visionary Issue as "Britain's most successful street fashion designer", 90s legend Daniel Poole has a reputation as the founding father of streetwear. His offbeat yet practical designs provided clothing which could be worn from the pub to the club, the DP logo splashed across bomber jackets and worker waistcoats acting as a stamp of approval for techno ravers and celebrities alike. Poole's interest in technology was also at the heart of the label, collaborating with brands such as Sony and PlayStation. Poole continues with the same ethos for his new All R-1 bag collection, remerging with a sense of understanding for the 24hr mobile generation. The bags consider both form and function, made from utilitarian MA-1 fabric aimed at protecting smartphones and laptops and in true DIY style, are available over a Kickstarter campaign to fund the collection. We caught up with Daniel to discuss All R-1, as well as the changes he's experienced in the fashion industry from the 90s to now.
Tell us a bit about your new collection…
It's a small collection of leather and nylon bags for the digital generation. It's called All R-1 because they work together and the name reflects my own spiritual beliefs, that we are all connected. The pouch bags clip onto the bigger bags and the straps are interchangeable. Our customers will be able to upgrade and add components later. For example, we have designed interior pods that work for specific tech and can be used in all the bags. I have developed the collection with my brother who is a key player in product development for the action sports industry. Style and functionality dominate our brand ethos. This range is based around the iconic Ma1 jacket, through the ballistic nylon fabric, safety stitch, reflective lining and cushioning.
What made you want to restart your label?
Lots of reasons, mainly I thought it would be fun and I wanted to start a family business with my brother.
What changes have you noticed in the fashion industry from the 90s to now?
The kids that work in shops are worse off now and independents have not fared well. The independents were the lifeblood of fashion creativity and boutiques catered for the local zeitgeist. This was a major market for individual fashion and provided work for a lot of people that rejected the mainstream. The recent recognition given to start ups through crowd funding, Kickstarter etc. may be good but I have no idea how young people can start a label of their own, because there are no small factories left to make anything and it's pretty difficult to get enough volume to start manufacturing overseas. Business and creativity rarely go hand in hand so we have witnessed more and more polarisation and the dominance of geek culture. Pitching my "Yuppies on Acid" collection to Lloyds bank for funding in the early 90s was a laugh. I can imagine it's even harder now. Streetwear reflects the wider political situation. The demise of youth culture, the disenfranchisement of youth, the rush to a mono-culture. The spread and dominance of global corporatism. The loss of identity and need to conform. The world has come a long way in 20 years, China and India have advanced but the West has gone backwards. I used to work in Egypt in the 70s and back then most of the young men wore traditional robes, now they wear streetwear. I attended a trade show in Las Vegas and was pretty shocked at how everyone in the street looked exactly the same. People look the same throughout the world now.
For our 1994 Visionary Issue we asked you if street fashion is more important than designer fashion. What would be your answer today?
Streetwear is now an industry, it has become a category that marketers and makers can target. We used to have designer wear, formalwear, casual wear, sportswear. Streetwear is a post 90s category defined by changing lifestyle. However, streetwear used to be defined as fashion that comes from the street, where as designer fashion flows directly from the designer.
I have not witnessed any major streetwear trends over the last 20 years, whereas in the previous 20 years I saw Teddy Boys, mods, rockers, hippies, skinheads, suedeheads, punks, New Romantics, scooter boys, yuppies, ravers, New Age travellers, skaters, cyberpunks and anti-fashion. So I guess streetwear under the old definition of fashion that comes from the street is less important now even though common parlance says it is a massive industry. The street is now the same in most parts of the world and the current street style is not to stand out. Differentiation is much more subtle. Fashion itself is another outlet for human creativity, joy and individualism, a fashion for being bland and conformist cannot be a good thing even if it is more democratic because it's more accessible. To me most streetwear is not fashion, it's just clothing.
How do you think things like social media and the internet have shaped what we think of as street style?
It could be a really good thing for fashion. When people were making their own clothes or getting local seamstresses and tailors to make their clothes it may have heralded millions of micro trends and spurred a rush to individuality. In the lack of a supply chain to support that, social media and the internet have just aided the rush to conformity. Consumers appear to use it to check that they're not doing anything wrong, to seek out celebs whose style they can mimic. Street style is now part of the mass, the mass view. The mass market has always sought to capture the underground spirit and monetise it. The ultimate manifestation of that in fashion is the leather biker jacket. Marlon Brando and 1000s afterwards wore it as symbol of rebellion and now it's a staple of Marks and Spencer and Tesco. Things that are mass trending are kind of the opposite of what streetwear should be all about. Trying to be on trend when trend means on mass is a pretty naff concept. In the 90s we developed the idea of anti fashion, which was cool, that concept could only come from the street.
Who inspired you when you first launched your label?
Fashion is a visual expression and parallels musicians in the audio landscape. It's part of the rich tapestry of life and brings colour and joy. People that added something to my day, mainly those that brought a sense of humour inspired me. David Bowie often looked comical and ridiculous but he was brave. Hippies, New Romantics. Techno kids. Lou Reed. Happy Mondays and punks. Brave people with a point of view and style. Non-conformists.
Who are you inspired by now?
Ironically, I like the futurist approach, quality and tech ethos of Uniqlo. However the super brands need to find ways to give back and promote the creative side of the industry. Maybe fund foundations or allow access to some of their facilities. We are in the age of corporatism so we have to work for change from within. The super brands need to share their wealth and processes. Style wise it's difficult to be really inspired right now. I think youth culture should be promoted and celebrated not absorbed. I like the way the young Chinese make a deliberate effort to look different and often channel their oriental background.
Do you have any plans for future collections?
I want to establish the bags first. We have lots of tech and new products coming on stream for All R-1. I'm interested in collabs - I pioneered collaborations in the 90s, working with Sony, Star Trek and PlayStation. I am not interested in creating clothing just to make money, I am interested in how technology impacts culture and how it can be harnessed to embrace the All R-1 ethos.
Support Daniel Poole's Kickstarter campaign here.
Text Lula Ososki