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The designer channelling her cult upbringing into her new collection

Hanger founder Claire Yurika Davis draws on her childhood as part of The Moonies, Japanese tea ceremonies, and The Matrix for her AW18 offering

“I was talking to my mum about the new collection, and where I wanted to go with it, and she reminded me of a proverb that’s echoed in every culture: ‘he who chases two rabbits will catch neither’. That was really what was on my mind this season,” explains Hanger designer Claire Yurika Davis of her new collection, Sleepy Chan. Where last season was focused on speed and aggression, this time around Davis wanted to make a very clear departure from that and slow things down. “I was really tired and feeling the effects of working non-stop and burning myself out, and so were a lot of my friends,” she continues.

Over the course of the last few years, the ASOS Fashion Discovery award-winning designer has become known for her subversively sexy aesthetic, with latex, lace-up dresses, 90s-style blazers, skin-tight, bootcut trousers, and boldly branded fluoro t-shirts all featuring heavily. Sleepy Chan develops on this, adding strappy latex bra tops and her take on the ever-popular micro bag into the mix. For Davis, there’s one stand-out piece though.

“It’s always a jacket, every season – if you know me, you know I have a real obsession with jackets,” she says. “I think this time around the lime satin tailored jacket and the black latex version are my favourite pieces. The former for its casual power-dressing vibe, and the latter because it’s just so The Matrix and there is no harder vibe than a Matrix vibe.”

As well as the proverb her mother reminded her of, Davis’s new collection also draws from the ritualistic practices of Japanese tea ceremonies, and the cultic influences of her childhood. “I grew up in the Moonies, or as it’s formally named, The Unification Church,” she explains. “It’s not what most people would probably envisage a ‘cult’ to be – there were no vibey robes or wild orgies, but there was a lot of pyramid scheme money-grabbing and brainwashing. There was a really strange energy that I can’t really describe, but to be honest, ever since I can remember, I thought the whole concept of a ‘heavenly father’ and religion as a whole pretty ludicrous. People all over the world still bless their food to framed pictures of men so I suppose, really, my childhood wasn’t that strange at all.”  

“I grew up in the Moonies, which is not what most people would probably envisage a ‘cult’ to be – there were no vibey robes or wild orgies, but there was a lot of pyramid scheme money-grabbing and brainwashing” – Claire Yurika Davis

A new film, Temple of Sleepy Chan premiered on Nowness last week, further emphasising the cult-ish feeling behind the collection. Directed by Jade Jackman, the short sees a woman seemingly initiated into a cult by way of a ritualistic Japanese tea ceremony. “I’ve never designed for a particular type of woman, and I’ve never had a muse – I think it’s such a boring idea,” Davis says. “When I’m designing, I have a group of characters in mind, which is why there’s always such a definitive storyline between each collection, like the commune of Sleepy Chan. From one collection to the next there could be a link between the characters, but mainly I’m envisioning dressing people of the future, in a specific time and place.”

When it comes to what she has in store for these characters further down the line, the designer is ambitious. “I think my upbringing has repelled me from a sense of ‘religion’ for sure, but I’m really into religious clothing,” she says. “There’s so much drama, embellishment and iconic silhouettes among them, and I want to continue exploring these references to show that religion is a purely social and monetary construct, and is as much about ‘fashion’ as a ready-to-wear or couture collection from whatever designer. But let’s not get religious twisted with spirituality. In the future I’ll most definitely be making garms for spirituality, and we’ll probably just trade them by then. And weed-infused gowns. I want to make some of those too.”

Watch the Nowness film Temple of Sleepy Chan below.