I use deadstock garments and locally sourced vintage clothes to create new pieces of clothing that I hope people will want to wear for generations. Around 80 per cent of the clothing that we give to charity doesn’t stay in the UK and it gets sold for profit. Not a lot of people know this. It either ends up going into recycling centres in Panipat in India or it ends up in Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana. I am repurposing garments for my brand. Dumping things in other places is stupid, so let’s keep it in this city, rework it and add value to it.
What mark did you set out wanting to leave on the menswear landscape?
I think there’s space for men to go further. If you actually look at menswear from the 1950s to now, there’s not been much real change. A polo shirt might have been tweaked here and there, but by and large the uniform for men remains. I wanted to create clothes that were fun, but that men were still going to be comfortable wearing.
Which of your recent collections mean the most to you?
My Spring/Summer 2022 collection, “Parts Of Me”. It’s about Afro-Caribbean hair. Black people don’t see that celebrated in everyday culture in the West. I have Afro hair, but growing up I never saw anyone with hair like mine. Celebrities straightened theirs to fit a Western ideal. The walls of my studio are covered with vintage hair-salon adverts, pictures of black 1990s nightclub-goers and the photographs JD ’Okhai Ojeikere took of hairstyles in Nigeria. The pieces carry an Afro-comb motif in celebration of all that.
You continued that with your recent Mulberry collaboration too.
I did. The motifs are printed on bags. That was so important to me. With that, I also made a change – a small one, but it’s a step. I asked to see Mulberry’s diversity and inclusion policy and I was shocked, as there was nothing about the treatment of different hair types. I suggested Mulberry’s team update the policy to tackle discrimination against black hair, including dreads and braids, across its campaigns and in the office. They did. Every partnership I ever do will have some element of me pushing the boundaries.
Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?
In January, I received the Queen Elizabeth II Award For British Design, which was a major achievement. Winning the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund really changed my trajectory. The fund has allowed me to hire people – we’re now a team of 13 – and I finally feel like I can build this into something with purpose. Winning the LVMH Prize in 2020 was also a highlight.
What was it like working with Gucci?
Incredible. To be acknowledged by Alessandro Michele and invited to create my film, Joy, for GucciFest was great. It allowed me to highlight my multifaceted background and celebrate the strength of black existence with a brand that has a global resonance, which you didn’t really see until recently.
What’s next for you and your brand?
The messages from black and brown people I receive on Instagram, which thank me for showing them something they haven’t seen in the fashion industry, show me I’m doing good. I must, and will, carry on.
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