Daniel Lismore — artist, stylist and designer — is referring to the lofty phrase that has become synonymous with his name: London’s Most Outrageous Dresser.
Taken from an article in US Vogue a few years ago, it’s a mantle that he is characteristically humble about, though it’s easy to see why it has stuck.
At 6ft 4 inches, with hair down to his waist and androgynous features, the 31-year-old cuts a striking figure even without his multi-layered outfits.
“People are going to stare anyway so I think I may as well give them something to stare at.”
It’s a mantra that he’s taken to the extreme.
His inspirations range from geishas to garbage and much of his wardrobe has been acquired from his travels all over the world. A fusion of culture, it’s a look that goes far beyond style.
A new exhibition at the Savannah College of Art and Design, titled “Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken,” centers on this mesmerizing aesthetic.
We give London theater and it spits in our face.
It is his first exhibition in America, having previously had portraits exhibited at Tate Modern and Tate Britain. The installation itself is inspired by the regimented structure and detailed outfits of the Chinese terracotta warriors.
Daniel explained, “You know when you put your armour on to go out? That’s pretty much what I do every day.”
The impressive exhibition is a tapestry of Lismore’s eventful life.
Having moved to London from a small village in England’s Midlands at 17, after being scouted by a modelling agency, he went on to be photographed by the likes of Mario Testino and Ellen Von Unwerth for publications including Vogue UK, i-D magazine (his honorary cover is on display at SCAD FASH) and L’Uomo Vogue.
Eventually, he moved into editorial and styling (the tutu from Azealia Banks’ ‘Broke with Expensive Taste’ album cover features in the exhibition), while simultaneously ruling the noughties London club scene.
In 2012, he became the Creative Director of fashion brand and atelier Sorapol, (working alongside founder Sorapol Chawaphatnakul) dressing stars including Nicki Minaj and Paloma Faith.
He counts Boy George, Adam Ant and Vivienne Westwood as friends and came up in the industry with designers such as Levi Palmer and Jean-Pierre Braganza.
Featuring everything from a 100-year-old Chinese necklace to a pair of discarded leg braces which he often wears as a crown, the exhibition celebrates Lismore’s ability to see potential
Constantly reusing rather than consuming, his eco-conscious attitude recently saw him chosen by H&M for their Close The Loop campaign, which promotes recycling clothes, while his next high profile public appearance is a cameo in the new Absolutely Fabulous film.
Such a strong look often overshadows the person beneath the clothes, but this doesn’t seem to bother Lismore: “I prefer that because I’m quite a private person. There’s something about being surrounded by a ball of color — I don’t have to open up to everyone.”
But, he says, this is not a persona he has created: “I think I’ve always been a bit different. I grew up in a really loving family in a small village. My father was an antiques dealer and he used to bring back all these amazing things which I’d put in my dress up box.”
Initially inspired by WWF wrestlers — “all these grown men running around in sequins, like warpaint!” — and Star Trek, and then discovering musicians like Bjork and Marilyn Manson, and later David Bowie and Boy George, he began dressing to be different, even if he was just popping out to buy bread.
He admits it’s not an easy existence by any means, encountering prejudice “constantly”.
“I know full well I’m going to get attention when I walk out the door but I don’t dress for attention. I dress for myself and I dress to break my own boundaries. I think you’ve got to in life.”
For Lismore there are no down days, no dressing to conform: “It came to a point about three years ago when I went through my closet and got rid of everything. […] T-shirts, jeans, normal things that people have in their wardrobe I gave away because they’re not right for me. I was conforming and I just thought, ‘why am I dressing like this?’”
His attitude is inspiring, but one thing Lismore isn’t positive about is the current state of fashion: “I feel that the ‘British fashion industry’, do not respect or understand what London fashion is about, they’ve lost the identity. All these great young fashion designers, and there’s no help for them. [Sorapol is] moving to Paris. We give London theatre and it spits in our face.”
So what does he want people to take away from the exhibition?
“I hope people come in and see that someone does actually live their life like this. It proves that you can live any way you want as long as you’re not hurting anyone.”