London designers seem to come and go faster than a hustler in a hurry. Wham, bam, thanks, man. But exactly where do these rising stars go? In the case of Deryck Walker, back home to Scotland, at the very moment his men’s label was morphing from edgy street to statement suit. (There’s a difference.) Good move, too, because as he told me on a recent trip to the city (via the fine and generous folks at VisitBritain), he couldn’t be happier…
Let’s start with the basics. You’re Glaswegian?
Well, I moved from here when I was 19, then went to London, then came back in between, then finally returned to Glasgow two years ago.
Why London? Saints Martins?
No. I kept meaning to apply, but every time I went to fill out the forms I got distracted. Someone would need help with a collection. I was assisting Boudicca and Robert Cary-Williams. Before I knew it, I was working in Italy.
Was that Versace?
Yeah, that happened through my mate Andrew Davis from Arena. It was dream come true to be 20 years old and working in menswear at Versace. But it lasted just under a year. There came a point when I realized it wasn’t for me.
Your big break came later?
Around five years ago I did an all-black collection. Andrew came back in my life and arranged a meeting with Adrian Joffe of Comme des Garçons. He loved the collection and bought all of it for the shop [Dover Street Market]. We were there for four seasons, but…
There are so many labels in London. You’re in a massive pool and there’ll always be the favorites. Already there’s a new generation of men’s designers. Two years ago I decided to remove myself and come back to Glasgow. Here I can have a comfortable shop and studio.
So let’s have a little tour.
Okay, well, this is my comfortable shop and studio. We also run a made-to-measure service out of here.
We have great incentives from the government to work with local mills and weavers. It’s great to finally realize what’s been going on here in Scotland, in terms of cloth. It changed everything for me. I used to work in jersey, but now I have tailors on the level of Savile Row.
What’s this little number?
It’s knitwear from John Smedley, which has a really famous mill in Britain. It’s the finest-gauge knit you can get. The pattern of holes we added is based on sheet music from wind-up pianos.
Love. Where did the idea come from?
I found the sheet music and thought it would be cute as knitwear. Guys love something different, but not taken too far.
And this jacket?
I’ve done a couple of things like this for Harris Tweed. People think tweed is really rough and jaggy, but it can also be really soft. Over here we have a diamond pattern made with a mix of tweed and mohair.
Tweed is like a little miracle.
It’s a national treasure, and it’s protected. It can only be made on the islands. You can’t make it in China. Or you could, but it wouldn’t have the name Harris Tweed, and it wouldn’t have the mark and number in the lining, which makes each piece unique.
What about this skimpy chain-mail piece? Tell me it’s for women.
Definitely. I did women’s for two seasons. It’s made from joiner’s biscuits, or wood chips that carpenters use. They come in white and we dye them different colors.
Speaking of biscuits, I heard you used to be a waiter at Bistrotheque.
I’ve done my time. Those were difficult years, working at a restaurant then working at the studio and setting up a label. I was one of Mandi Lennard’s designers, along with Gareth [Pugh] and Roksanda [Ilincic]. She repped me the first two years and got me into Man [fashion show], but eventually I ran out of money.
Who do you keep in touch with in London?
Loads. Judy Blame will phone me up and want to use some of my tweeds. Last season he did a shoot with Juergen Teller for Arena Homme +. (Shows me the issue.) This is him wearing one of my tweeds. It was too small but he squeezed into it anyway.
You don’t miss London?
Not really. We were always on the verge of being evicted and panicking all the time. I teach at a college here and I always tell the kids to really research what they want to do. They just see all the glamour of fashion. I say look at all the other stuff, don’t just look at the golden child.
Are we talking about Christopher Kane?
Yes. His kind of success is rare. It’s funny because Glasgow is a nouveau riche city and there used to be a Versace boutique here. It was one of the most successful Versace shops in Europe. Chris and his sister Tammy grew up with that. But anyway, I say to my kids they should be realistic.
If you were asked to head a big label, would you do it?
People ask me that all the time. I wouldn’t want to go near the big couture labels. They don’t interest me. There are some British labels that could use a designer. But I could never give up what I have here.
What’s the most amazing thing that’s happened to you recently?
The other day we got a beautiful envelope from the Queen, inviting us to a fashion reception at Buckingham Palace.
Po-o-o-osh! You’ve arrived.