Dear Shaded Viewers,
In advance of Daniel Lismore's first solo show in the US at SCAD, I had a chat with Daniel Lismore, London-based artist, designer and stylist, about his life and his upcoming exhibition "Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken" curated by SCAD director of fashion exhibitions Rafael Gomes.
DP: Was there any epiphany when you discovered fantasy and the fun playing
with your look?
DL: I don’t think there was an epiphany. My life and looks have just
evolved from one to the other. Each stage I hope I have taken the best
of the previous and continued. I have just evolved to what I am now
and will hopefully keep evolving to be myself because everyone else is
DP: Anyone in your family inspire or encourage you to explore fashion and
DL: I don’t think the family directly inspired me but my surroundings did.
The house I grew up in was built in 1612 full of beams and character
and antique furniture. There were a few painting and ornaments of
historical characters. I used to play with them along side star wars
figures. One ornamental figure was Cardinal Wolsey, How I longed to be
him with his Long red gowns. There were huge blue and white delft
plates with beautiful portraits of characters with frilly shirts and
long curly hair. Some of my day wear styles interpret those scenes.
Later on I became obsessed with Star Trek. I collected the figures and
used to lock myself in my room for days on end playing with them and
making them outfits out of clay. I used to invent new looks for them
and I think that was the start of me creating fashion ideas.
All of my family encouraged me because they knew how passionate I was
about fashion I would spend hours watching FTV waiting for the Dior
Haute Couture shows to come on. After I moved to London I would often
get a call from mum to say they had picked up something for me in a
charity shop. I would come return home to yards of materials, or
Indian sari lengths. My mum couldn’t resist. Old curtains would be
draped and sewn in the kitchen and ornaments from the house were used
to adorn hats. Usually when I would get home after months of being
away my mother would says, we are going shopping and we would end up
in small towns around Warwickshire in charity shops or even wedding
hire shops where she would purchase Edwardian style jackets and top
hats that were on sale. The best thing by far was when I had arrived
home and she presented me with a gold kimono she had bought on ebay
DP: As a kid did you play dress up a lot? How did your family react to that?
DL: I have been told that at nursery school I would always be in a tug of
war for the pink ballet dress from the dress up box.
My dad was an auctioneer and antique dealer, sometimes he would have
to clear a house, I often went with him and would sneak the old
fashioned hats home.
My brother and I used to play dress up with the collection of party
outfits we collected over the years, we would pretend we were pirates
of WWF wrestlers. My family are fine about me dressing up and they
still are. I took my 90 year old granny to one of my Halloween parties
a few years ago with my mum and sister. My granny turned up with her
white hair pink and a velvet cape, so I suppose all my family like
DP: What was the beginning of your fashion career?
DL: I was scouted as a model at The Clothes Show at The N.E.C in
Birmingham. I had been studying photography and fashion design at the
local college. I always thought I was ugly as I was bullied for how I
looked and for being gay at school. I had 5 model bookers scout me in
one day and thought they were just dodgy agencies that were trying to
make a quick buck out of photo shoots, it turned out that one of them
was Select Models and the other Boss Models in Manchester.
I went to London to join Select. Three days later they sat me and the
other 4 boys who had been scouted out of 100’s of people and said one
of us had to go home. That one was me. Within five minutes of leaving
my father called me and said that the model agency wanted to see me. I
was so confused as I thought that they just told me to leave. It was
in fact Boss from Manchester who said I must go and see a new agency
called ICM. They took me on with Boss as my mother agent and that was
the beginning of a very colourful episode of my life. Ironically the
photographer who first shot me at Select was Simon Harris. Simon and I
have remained friends and have been working on an art exhibition which
is yet to come. The only image released so far from that collection
has been used for press for the SCAD Exhibition in Atlanta.
DP: What have been the most fun events or parties that you have organized?
DL: I do not think there were any parties I hosted I did not have fun at.
Each was very different. Some were weekly but never the same.
Throughout my modelling times and after when I went to work at Vogue
in Hanover Square I collected contacts of amazing people. Venturing to
drag clubs in East London and gay bars in Soho, sex clubs on the
outskirts of South London and collected an array of eccentric
wonderful beings who I could not live without. They contributed
greatly to my parties and if an odd celebrity turned up once in a
while and caused a media storm, well that was just one of those
I never saw myself as a club promoter, more of a social alchemist
sowing the seeds of London’s culture. It was fulfilling and I had more
fun seeing people grow and become stars in their field.
DP: How did your solo exhibition at SCAD come about?
I met Rafael Gomez many years ago. He worked for Vivienne Westwood for
ten years and went on to become the curator at SCAD. He called me out
of the blue and asked if I was interested in doing an exhibition of my
outfits. I think it was a similar situation to Iris Apfel, The museum
had an opening after the Oscar De La Renta exhibition I said yes. A
week later he was in my family home with myself and my friend Anthony
surrounded by boxes that we had to pack to go to Atlanta.
“Be yourself everyone else is taken” where did that line come from? I
remember a scene in an old film with Bogart and Lauren Bacall where a
girl fainted and Bogart said “She’s not herself.” and Bacall
replied…”Who is she then?” That script reminded me of that film.
A quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit, I don’t have the gift
of immediate wit so I often steal a quote from Oscar Wilde. I don’t
think he would have minded, I would like to think we would have been
DP: I imagine that Leigh Bowery had a big impact on you, how old were you
when you started going to clubs and dressing up?
DL: I am ashamed to say, Leigh Bowery never really had a direct impact on
my image. To my shame I had never really heard of Leigh Bowery, In
fact I only heard about Leigh when I was sitting on a friends sofa in
Canary Warf after getting home from a night out, he tried to show me
the documentary, but I fell asleep. It wasn’t till I was sitting in
Kim Jones living room one day and he showed me some of Leigh’s
outfits, I was shocked by the print, I was in awe and asked to try it
on. He also showed me the film Paris is Burning and some Andy Warhol
films, I think that set my thinking for the next couple of years.
Boy George asked me to play Leigh when Taboo made it’s come back to
the London stage. I was honored to be asked and went to everyone I
knew that actually knew Leigh. I researched every image and video I
could find. I even modelled myself on him for a few weeks misbehaving,
throwing ice buckets over peoples heads and drove my best friend,
Sorapol crazy rehearsing, but I went to the audition with the
director. I lost my nerve and just couldn’t do it but I did suggest to
George that he should use my friend Samuel Buttery. He did. I passed
on all my knowledge to of Leigh to Sam. He was a fabulous Leigh
I used to go to clubs in my hometown of Coventry in the early
naughties. I fancied myself as an alternative cyber goth for a while.
I went to college, discovered makeup and ventured to gay bars in
Birmingham. There were only three club freaks on the scene, Sid,
Chrissy Darling and Twiggy. I was fascinated.
By the time I was 17 my modelling had taken me to London. A much
bigger stage for me to play on.
I discovered a club called The Ghetto, often seeing club Royalty like
Princess Julie, Tasty Tim and Philip Salon. My life had changed.
Myspace was big at that point and it was through that I met a CSM
student, Levi Palmer. Now one half of Palmer Harding. He educated me
on 90’s fashion and underground subcultures. He took me to Kash Point.
That was the start of my time in nightlife.
I later moved in and shared a flat with him. At the time I was trying
to make a name as a fashion photographer. We often spent the whole
week getting ready for the weekend. By that time I was already hosting
the legendary club Circus with Jodie Harsh on a Friday. We went to
Antisocial on a Saturday and Boombox on Sunday. It took a week and
plenty of ingenuity to get three outfit together on our (Should I say
his) student salary.
We had such fun and enjoyed every minute, on our way homes we would
search skips and the streets of East London for anything that we could
be put on or indeed made into a hat.
We were stuck one evening for a head piece, we searched the house, my
nan had given me an old fashioned phone for the flat. I turned around
and Levi was gluing elastic to the phone. He wore it out that night
covered in golden glitter, It became my favorite hat and I often wore
it out. This was long before anyone famous with phones on their heads.
I loved hosting Circus I think my greatest looks were achieved for
that night. The venue was The Soho Review Bar now The Box. I could
build a look as tall and as wide as I liked and I went all out with no
DP: Can you tell me a bit about yourself as a stylist
DL: I started styling whilst taking photographs and wanted to be like the
90’s photographers styling their own shoots. Obviously this is a lot
of work but partying most days of the week this went to the back of my
schedule. I started again a few years ago on a trip to Taipei and I
have been lucky enough to work with the wonderful Cara Delevigne,
Azealia Banks and Lindsay Lohan. Of course working on the Sorapol
brand has expanded my styling work. I dress celebrities on a daily
basis and often work with stylists on their concepts for shoots, music
videos and red carpet events.
DP: Then the creation of the couture line Soropol?
DL: Sorapol started initially in a gay bar in Marble Arch. I first met
Sorapol Chawaphatanakul the brand director and head designer of the
Sorapol brand in The Ghetto. A nightclub lost to the gentrification of
I was totally fascinated by him. He radiated an energy I had never
seen before and I thought that I should know him. I was with Levi
Palmer and we went over to say hi, he replied with Vogue moves and we
stared dancing, I lost touch for a year when I left him at the door of
a club. I searched for him for a year and apparently he searched for
One day out of the blue he turned up at one of my parties at Beach
Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch wearing a vagina hat with a group of
boys dressed in ball gowns. I asked where they were from and he said
they were wearing his student works. A while later after a drunken
night out he expressed how he dislike his LCF course and didn’t want
to work in all the boxes set out for him. That is when we decided to
start our own fashion label. I vowed to give up my club life and
concentrate on developing and promoting our brand.
DP: What can we expect to find at your exhibition? Have you ever been to
that part of the US before?
DL: I have never been to Atlanta so I am very excited and honored to be
invited by SCAD.
As with all of my outfits, they are developed on the spot, made on the
day. I have sent literally everything I have, about 3000 pieces.
DP: How many looks will be on display, Can you describe a few of your
DL: There will be 30 looks. They will be very rich in jewellery and
fabrics. I am thinking of a world where I would have an army of
emperors channeling Queen Elizabeth I with a message?
DP: How are you going to set it up? Any particular inspiration?
DL: A week before I was asked to do the exhibition, I drew out a plan of
an army of me. I wanted to turn what I have been doing for 13 years
into an art exhibit. The Terracotta Warriors were my inspiration.
Hopefully the exhibition will resemble a small quantity of the
I often think of myself as a canvas. I paint that canvas with objects
and war paints.
All of the inspiration will be from my previous looks. I am constantly
inspired by most things I see. I often see objects as what they could
be, not what they are. I don’t know who decided less is more, but I
think they are defiantly wrong!
DP: What is your favorite film? How has film influenced your own approach
to fashion? Any particular periods that inspires you the most?
DL: I think the best film of all time is Myra Breckenridge. It has all my
favorite movie stars in it. I am a big Mae West fan. It was well ahead
of its time and there has not been another film like it. I also love
The Zigfield Follies, the production and costumes bring me into
another world. The Oscar Wilde film starring my friend Stephen Fry has
to be a favorite because. They are both my ultimate idols. I also love
the film Stephen directed “Bright young things” based on the
debauchery that happened in the late 1920’s. As far as I can see
nothing in London has changed.
I love films and they inspire me very much, period dramas, fantasy
films and underground documentaries have inspired personalities for
the image I project. I hope one day to go into acting. I find myself
acting every of my life, the characters I play are just facets of
myself. The world is my stage.
DP: How many years will this cover?
DL: I have pieces in the exhibition right from the time I was a baby. I
have been collecting things since I was young. Other pieces belonged
to family members and there are ancient necklaces, jewellery and woven
DP: Will you be meeting with the students there?
DP: What do you want people
to walk away with once they visit the exhibition.
DL: Of course I will be meeting the students and I am very happy to do so.
I believe there are a few meetings set up. I am not sure what I will
teach them but hopefully because I have lived a colourful and
insightful life they will walk away with something.
When leaving the exhibition I want people to know it’s ok to be
yourself, because after all everyone else is already taken.
Images Damien Frost