Representing the creative future

Luke Derrick on launching a collection one year after graduation

"Virality is everywhere, but where is longevity?"

It’s never easy for a graduate to set up a label, but the critical year after university seems to be the trickiest. From collaborating with Oliver Sweeney to recently launching his debut collection, the British designer and Central Saint Martins 2021 graduate Luke Derrick aims to build the wardrobe of a fashion-forward, yet slightly conservative man.

“The lockdown forced me to be contemporary.” – Luke Derrick

Straddling between formality and informality, cardigan jackets and flares combine with cargo trousers and PJ shirts in a collection that fits the post-pandemic world like a glove. All in an array of high-quality fabrics that go from Cotton-Nylon ripstop, duck canvas and silk to Hainsworth merino melton, also used in the ceremonial uniforms worn during Queen Elisabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.

“[Upon finishing university] You feel incredibly fearful about missing the momentum.” – Luke Derrick

“Lockdown forced me to be contemporary,” says Derrick. “To get back to clothes but in a way that feels innovative, responsive and zeitgeisty.” That’s exactly why he had to reassess what men would wear in and out of their homes. Inspired by the clothes inside his own wardrobe, he carefully planned every single detail of an effortless yet rigorous collection suitable for all sorts of events, from a morning brunch or a fancy evening dinner to a casual Zoom meeting at 3PM.

Post-graduation life feels like an abyss. Wondering what to do next is what haunts most designers once they finish education. “You feel incredibly fearful about missing the momentum,” he says. But Derrick’s case differed from most of his classmates since an internship at Dunhill during the first few months after graduation kept the designer occupied. And so did a collaboration with Oliver Sweeney, for which he designed an incredibly timely shoe for 2020 – a cowboy-inspired calf leather mule. “I felt incredibly lucky to have something to do and keep going with it. Everyone was sat on their ass for a few months.”

“You still have that industry access and access to internships, but I think that hierarchy is going. Everyone seems sick of it.” – Luke Derrick

Despite the apparent success, landing a job during such tumultuous times became an arduous task. “There are way too many graduates and not enough jobs,” he explains. With endless fashion designers graduating every year and just a few positions available, the job market feels more saturated than ever. And not even CSM’s renowned reputation is of help anymore, apparently. “You still have that industry access and access to internships, but I think that hierarchy is going. Everyone seems sick of it.”

Despite the initial frustration, Derrick didn’t give up. He took the plunge to start his own fashion label – DERRICK – in an attempt to fill in the gap between traditional tailoring and the out-there fashion often seen in London, creating fashion-forward pieces that draw on his beloved Oxonian roots. “I spent my MA trying to become employable. I got employable and then I had to unlearn it all to become my own agent,” he says. “At least I have agency over what I publish now, what I create goes towards my portfolio.”

“Everything you do has long-incurring consequences. Unless you are incredibly wealthy, you have to really pick your shots.” – Luke Derrick

What the British designer was sure of was that he didn’t want to feel stuck, with no career progression in sight. “Some people haven’t had the career progression they should have, even if they’ve made all the correct decisions. Some are very happy with this, but others have the sensation of being stuck,” he explains.

But building a label is a long journey with many bumps on the road. “Everything you do has long-incurring consequences. Unless you are incredibly wealthy, you have to really pick your shots,” he says. Following his friends’ advice, Derrick is treating the brand like any other start-up, opting for a much slower and human approach to create closeness between him and his customers. “There are things you can do as an individual that you can’t do later on, so I need to take advantage of that.”

“Virality is everywhere, but where is longevity?” – Luke Derrick

The most challenging part of the whole process is probably staying focused. “If you have an idea of this key person you are designing for, you can always fall back on that,” he says. But it’s not always that easy, especially when working on your own, which is why Derrick is so passionate about collaborations. For the designer, it is also very important to keep certain things in mind when walking such a complicated path. “You have to really like clothes. If you do, you can at least work on something you are passionate about,” he shares. “And also master this massive rejection game.”

The future is still uncertain for most young designers. Even when their designs go viral, their success tends to be ephemeral. “Virality is everywhere, but where is longevity?” asks the British designer. Because that’s what he is seeking to build – a long-lasting career in fashion that constantly evolves to stay successful. And no matter what adversities he faces, Luke Derrick has already set a strong foundation for it.