We talk to designer Claire Yurika Davis – one of the winners of ASOS’s Fashion Discovery competitionASOS
“I have a solid group of female friends and that’s how I like to design: around the idea of a girl gang.” Claire Yurika Davis, better known by her moniker HANGER, is the designer changing the way we see, and wear a fabric usually reserved for fetish clothing.
Dedicated to bringing latex into a fashion-forward context, Davis has been working with the fabric since 2013. Her designs retain some of the underground appeal that come naturally with in wearable, wipe-clean rubber; but after working with a material that is not often seen as an everyday staple, Davis has uncovered its varied potential. HANGER’s clothing is sexy but still wearable, accessible and, perhaps most surprisingly, renewable.
Beyond starting a mission to add latex to the conversation, Davis is also a major champion for transparency and sustainability across her brand, and asks for others to do the same. The parity between forward-thinking clothes and sustainable practices oftentimes seems far separated, but HANGER begs to differ – “if a small label can do it then big brands should be looking to change their supply chains and make sustainability a focus,” Davis argues.
Last year, the 27-year-old British-Japanese designer received backing for HANGER after she won the ASOS Fashion Discovery Prize – alongside underwear and fellow latex designer, Elissa Poppy. Over the year, she has been growing it – both in terms of her collections, her digital output, as well as her design point of view. We caught up with Davis to find more about her Japanese cinema and sci-fi influences, sustainability, and what it’s like to win big.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Claire Yurika Davis: Something clean, graphic and with a bit of sci-fi edge in there. Also super latex!
Where do you get your main inspirations from?
Claire Yurika Davis: When I’m designing I look to film – specifically Japanese cinema. I’m obsessed with film because my dad brought me up on Kung-Fu, sci-fi and horror. Especially with the last two collections, I was looking at this era of Japanese film where there were a lot of Sukeban films. They are films based around girl-gangs: Sukeban literally means ‘Girl Boss’, and she would be the leader. So it’s based around the idea of gang, which resonates with me in real life because I don’t design for one person, I’m designing for a group of people which I think is more close to real life anyway. Not everyone is a confident person, or Sukeban, if you will. There’s also a quieter, or slightly more introverted, type.
How did you get involved with latex?
Claire Yurika Davis: I started working with latex in my final year of uni when I found it in a shop. I’d never seen it before and I was like ‘wow’, so I bought a meter or two, and got online and Googled ‘How to make latex clothes’. There were a few YouTube videos which taught me the basics. Around the same time, after I graduated in 2013, I started my business in baby steps and also started working with a latex designer who really taught me everything I know. I went from being rubbish to being really good. It’s a really interesting fabric and when it comes to more widely known womenswear nobody was really using it outside of fetishwear – so I decided to.
Tell us about the sustainability of your brand?
Claire Yurika Davis: When people think of sustainable or eco-fashion, they think of hemp sack dresses, or that real hippie tree-hugger vibe, which I’m into if you’re into. But that’s not my aesthetic at all. I think it’s important to show people that you can wear stylish sustainable clothing that’s made in good factories that are paying their workers well and that you can work to get fabric that isn’t damaging to the environment – for example, latex is a renewable fabric. People are always surprised when I tell them latex is renewable, because they think it’s made out of plastic, but it’s rubber – it’s tapped from a tree. It's so important to let people know that these things are doable and it is possible to implement sustainable practices into fashion. People are used to fast fashion, and with big companies, their production chains have been in place for a long time. So now I think everybody needs to be pushing that message to normalise these sustainable practices.
You won the ASOS Fashion Discovery Prize. Since then, how has life changed for you as a designer?
Claire Yurika Davis: It’s been a real rollercoaster. Obviously, it was great to win the award, but I had to really upscale production because obviously now I’m selling through ASOS, and that presented like a trillion and one problems which I’d never even anticipated before because I’d never done production that large. So it was the steepest learning curve ever, but I’m glad that I’ve done it because the first time of doing anything is a really rocky road. It meant that I could work with so many more people: it opened up opportunities. I took on a brand manager and found someone to do my social.
“When people think of sustainable or eco-fashion, they think of hemp sack dresses, or that real hippie tree-hugger vibe, which I’m into if you’re into. But that’s not my aesthetic at all” – Claire Yurika Davis
What have you learned through the scheme?
Claire Yurika Davis: I think the most valuable thing is working with ASOS, and through that understanding, what it is to work with a global company. It’s so useful to get an insight into their business, as well as how they work with small brands like us. And even stuff that I would never had learned before – like sales statistics, sell through, and so much other stuff, I wouldn't have been able to do that without their knowhow. They’ve also been amazing with helping me find fabric and producers.
If you could tell this years’ hopefuls one thing…
Claire Yurika Davis: I would say go above and beyond what you would normally do. That was my approach. In every aspect, I got as much help as possible. I got my friends that are used to presenting and pitching ideas to talk me through how to present because that's not something I would ever really do. I made a film. There are so many things you can do. If you're creative, then use your network and get as much help as you can and deliver the best pitch of your life!
What’s next for HANGER?
Claire Yurika Davis: I’m really focusing on the process of slowing down. This last year has been really hectic and exciting for me, but I’ve learned that it's really important to take your time. Now I just want to step back and assess things. I realise that what I want to do might not be possible in the next month, so I’ll change the timeline and do it over five. The next season is all about slowing down, focusing on craftsmanship: it’s gonna be about comfort and the power you can gain through comfort.
Find out more information on ASOS Fashion Discovery and how to apply here.