On a sunny evening in Reykjavik with the promise of a never-ending sun we arrive at Harpa, the famous concert hall made of steel and geometric colourful glass panels, and proceed to the fifth floor to view the exhibition of Daniel Lismore as part of the annual Reykjavik Arts Festival. The London based fashion designer whose self-modelled outfits consist of layered and decorative accessories, Masai tribal masks, chain mail and hijab, has been described by Vogue as ‘England’s most outrageous dresser’ his outfits receiving international recognition and worn by celebrities. Admired by many, Daniel could be described as a spokesman for aestheticism.
The exhibition and the book of his work is aptly named from an Oscar Wilde quote ‘Be Yourself; Everyone Else Is Already Taken’. It offers immersion in Lismore’s unique sartorial point of view and consists of life-size sculptural creations, each worn by the artist at one time and are reflections of his own multidimensional identity and tapestry of his journey to his true self. Already familiar with his stylistic approach to life we were nevertheless overwhelmed seeing his art work live, as we enter the hall we are met by what he would describe as ‘an army of me’ thirty-seven sculptures of armour you might expect to see Daniel wearing on his numerous walk arounds London Town or anywhere else in the world, perhaps on his way to a glamorous party.
What Daniel has conceived is remarkable, each outfit is adorned by object d’art, exotic textiles, Indian and African accessories, couture fabrics, punk paraphernalia, Alexander McQueen, Philip Tracy and Vivienne Westwood pieces, artefacts or cut outs which create and make a provocative and romantic statement, each armour has a multi-dimensional feel which tells a story from whichever angle you look at.
Daniel himself is a walking sculpture and is known for elaborate and extravagant ensembles that combine haute couture and a mix of interesting finds, vintage fabrics and tartan, chain mail, shells, retro accessories, in fact he has the ability of being able to turn anything he finds into fashion and art in an expression of eccentric, creative energy. But who is this man behind this beautiful and intricate work of art?
Born on Christmas eve in Bournemouth, a former model who fronted many campaigns and was photographed by Mario Testino, even on a casual day he stands tall and handsome at 6’4 with his wavy, pre-Raphaelite, long dark hair cascading to his waist. Often wearing a hat and little make-up or none he still has an expression of eccentric creative energy about him with a manner that is welcoming, warm, soft spoken.
He dresses for himself and likes to break boundaries, David Bowie, Boy George, and Marylin Manson having been big inspirations to him when he was young and he was obviously destined to do something artistic. To make this dream become a reality we meet the charismatic Oliver Luckett, who with his company Efni helps to develop ideas to their full potential in Iceland and organised Daniel’s show at Harpa.
The two met in London in 2011 at the Box Soho which is a club described as a Theatre of Variety. Upon meeting him, Oliver put his head inside a geodesic dome that Daniel was wearing on his head and said: ‘I don't know who you are, but I really must’ and the rest is history. Ever since, they have been dear friends and an inspiration to each other.
Oliver adds that it was quite a production to pull together, especially in Iceland. "We bought and shipped many large mannequins on Icelandair Cargo and then had a sea container on Eimskip with the outfits. It took over 2 weeks for Daniel and tireless volunteers to put it all together as I was on a speaking tour in New Orleans and Denver for my book".
To end this short trip on a perfect note, we head to the Saga Lounge of Icelandair which epitomise the classic chic of airport lounges and our flight is even more exceptional than expected with a delicious lunch served with a glass or two of champagne. Flying high, never wanting to land, the words of David Bowie resound in our heads: ‘We can be heroes just for one day, we can be us just for one day’. Lismore’s exhibition at Harpa is on until 30th June and will travel to Europe in the following months.