I couldn’t wait to be a grown up. Quite simply so I could be who I wanted to be without permission. I lived in the ‘burbs and being different in any way shape or form was a fast track route to ridicule. I didn’t have a particular yearning to stand out from the crowd. I just wanted to experiment with different ways of doing and wearing things.
School uniform meant I had to dress the same. Fair do’s. And you’d be forgiven for thinking that was a safety net. But boy, if you had the wrong shaped skirt, roundy- instead of pointy-toed shoes, and were void of a ‘flick’ then you definitely couldn’t ‘sit with them’!
So when I announced I was off to art college it was a sure sign of who my friends weren’t:
‘So I guess Oxfam’s gonna be your new Chelsea Girl, then?’ (Well, yup!)
‘Off to join your hippy tribe?’ (If that’s what it takes!)
‘You’ll come running back, you’ll see’ (Er, don’t think so!)
I set sail – on a Red Bus Rover – to London and didn’t look back.
I love that people here don’t bat an eyelid at what you wear. That charity shop chic is a thing and that handmade is relished. I love that even my bad hair on the baddest of hair days gets an occasional compliment and I love having so much inspiration around me.
And why am I telling you all this? Because it was all stirred up by Daniel Lismore. Someone I’d been following on Instagram for some considerable time without even questioning who he was and where he’d come from. I just loved his extravagant outfits; his spectacular selfies with countless celebrities; all the amazing places in the world that he travels to and the ‘confidence’ he ooozed. Well, about that…!
It never occurred to me to find out who he actually was. I was quite happy not knowing until curiosity got the better of me and I checked his profile: ‘Public Figure. Artist living as Art. Circuit Ambassador @Tate. Brand Ambassador @illamasqua. Cool Earth Ambassador.’ Then I needed to know more!
One of his Instastories announced a talk at the V&A with Hilary Alexander. I just love the V&A. Love Hilary too. So I booked my ticket. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Daniel’s words resonated loud and clear when he talked about the teasing, the bullying and how his looks set him completely apart from his classmates. He came from a small village in the Midlands and his struggle was undoubtedly harder than mine. But still so many of his words rang true.
At 16 he knew for sure that he didn’t want to be like everyone else. He was inspired by an eccentric aunt who loved to mix and match fashions and his passion for upcycling and styling began. Dressing-up became his armour. Not to be on show so much as to be a platform from which to observe his onlookers.
Beneath all the swathes of glorious fabric and striking make up is an even more, incredibly beautiful person. Strangely enough, one who looks very much like my eldest daughter – I hope Daniel won’t be offended by that. My daughter certainly isn’t! – And believe it or not, someone who comes across as insanely shy. That was the biggest surprise for me and yet the thing that made most sense.
It wasn’t a surprise to know that he was snapped up for modelling early on. But the nightlife was what floated his boat more. Dressing-up his way and meeting cool people at cool London clubs, he became a living artwork for all that he wore. Daniel believes that fashion is art, and who am I to argue?!
From overseas charity work, to activist operations at the side of Vivienne Westwood, Daniel’s life is never dull. And an appearance in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie was one of the stepping stones to his first exhibition co-curated by SCAD and presented at SCAD FASH: Museum of Fashion and Film, Atlanta, USA.
The exhibition was called Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken. I love those words. It’s like the perfect mantra when I’m losing a bit of faith in myself. And I love the book, titled the same – a small window to the exhibition that I would have loved to have seen it in real life.
The photography is amazing. All outfits are fashioned and styled by Daniel. Layers of exotic fabric, textiles, jewels and souvenirs from his travels, all pinned together – not sewn as I found out from the talk. Though he does immerse himself in embroidery from time to time. Lots of the accessories and fabrics are donated, many from celebrities. Boy George was the previous owner of the hat he was wearing at the V&A talk. And much like us sewing bloggers he finds it extra hard to resist the beautiful fabrics he comes across on his travels.
Don’t worry. I’m not about to be sporting Mickey Mouse hands or a Roundhead military helmet any time soon. Though I have been entertaining the idea of a ruff… just a small one, mind!
If like me, you like nothing more than pouring over slick coffee table books loaded with lush alternative fashion inspiration then go grab yourself a copy. Daniel Lismore: Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken is available in all good bookshops or just click right here:
This post has not been sponsored. All words and views are my own. Event ticket and book purchased with my own funds. Images © Colin Douglas Gray, photographer and kind permission given by Rizzoli USA. Apart from the last one. The one with me looking awkward. Some kind lady at the V&A talk took this for me when Daniel signed my book!