GUEST BLOG: Dickie Wilkinson steps out

Many of you will not have heard the name Dickie Wilkinson. But over the next year I hope to change that. I am planning to launch my own men's accessories label.

This is the first in what will be a series of blogs charting my progress.

While my inspiration comes from many sources -my debut collection was inspired by poisonous frogs and Grace Jones - my influences are surprisingly consistent: The Pet Shop Boys, Mark Farrow, Jeeves and Wooster, Tim Burton films and a love of all things sartorial. Think of me as a Willy Wonka for the 21st Century.

Hailing as I do from the North East of England, my early years were more Billy Elliott than Little Lord Fauntleroy. Although I do recall that Mother would always dress me in a shirt and tie for nursery school (velvet in winter). By the age of ten I was quoting 'Wall Street' striding around town in red braces, filofax in hand (less Gordon Gecko and more Del Trotter).

Moving to London, with the fatherly advice 'They all dress weird down there anyway, son' ringing in my ears, I spent my student years taking myself far too seriously whilst creating fashion disasters and imposing them on London Town without a shred of irony.

With a degree in my now impeccably-tailored pocket I was then ready to step jauntily into the world of fashion, securing an apprenticeship at the brightly coloured menswear brand Duchamp. From there I progressed to designing accessories ranges for Ted Baker and T.M. Lewin. Specialising in cufflink-design at Lewins, I created the exclusive, engineered fitting they are now renowned for and persuaded them to develop my elegant ladies range instead of the couple of 'girlie-coloured' cufflinks they had sold before then.

I also pursued other creative outlets, cheekily clinching a freelance menswear design role at huntin'-shootin'-fishin' brand Farlows by declaring: "I don't hunt, shoot or fish and I hate the colour green but I'm still the right person for this job."

It was a commercially successful time, and many of my designs remain best-sellers.  But I felt that in some cases my work was becoming stale, as there was no room for experimentation, the brands and their business models were dictated by previous years' sales figures rather than a design-led progression.

I wanted creative freedom and I wanted my name on the box.

Over the last couple of years or so I have been developing my own range of cufflinks and researched the viability of my ideas.

I am fascinated by how men shop and what appeals to them aesthetically. This has formed the basis of the business plan I am now working on.

It was while testing one of my theories on male spending habits at an arts market that I met serial entrepreneur Doug Richard. He was at the event seeking fresh talent for his School for Creative Start-ups. Mr Richard and I hit it off instantly. Well, he was wearing a Duchamp Tie, so at least I knew we shared some aesthetic.

Mea culpa, I must confess that initially I was not sure how Mr Richard's course would be of benefit to myself. I am a designer after all and cannot allow fripperies such as business plans and profit margins to wrinkle my brow or my suits. Furthermore, surely whenever 'business people' get involved in creative endeavours then all creative integrity goes out of the window in pursuit of commercial success and financial return? Doesn't it?

Speaking to Mr Richard I guess I was wrong, very wrong. He emphasised the need for creativity to be the driving force behind any business. Especially in the current climate.

Could this liberally-minded, all-embracing designer have been rather blinkered? Perhaps I am not the best person to sell or market my work, perhaps another perspective on my branding may help, perhaps I am too close, too personal, too petulant to truly perceive my weaknesses? Perhaps.

But I don't think I'm the only one. In fact I think this attitude prevails amongst the creative community.

I met Smarta deputy editor Rebecca Burn-Callander at the School for Creative Start-ups launch party. We agreed that maybe there is a need for these perceived separate camps to converse more and I hope over the coming months to update you on my progress. More importantly, I hope that my blogs open up discussion and dispel some of the myths around mixing creativity and commerce, whatever the outfit one is wearing.

Find out more about Dickie Wilkinson

Buy Dickie's designs

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