Daniel Rynne, AUB graduate and winner of the Debenhams Menswear award at GFW17, took time out of his busy designing schedule to talk us through his career steps and aspirations since his inspirational win. Daniel’s graduate collection was inspired by Dorothea Lange and the Farm Security Administration, seen through his focus on the details, included rivets, buttons and zips representative of hardware, reflecting the era. Although officially recognised as a menswear collection, Daniel designed his garments to be worn universally, by all genders, which really excited the Debenhams team.

Looking into the future, Daniel has some really exciting things lined up, beginning with his placement at Debenhams learning about the consumer market and producing on commercial levels. All the creative energy and skills Daniel is developing, and practical education Debenhams has him lined up perfectly to start his own brand- his ultimate goal.


Congratulations on winning the Debenhams Menswear Award during GFW17! What was the experience of showing your collection, and then winning an award, like?

Thank you! The experience was amazing, to see all the months of hard work and sleepless nights pay off was the best feeling in the world. I can’t explain the feeling the moment you see your collection walk on that catwalk, it's an absolute buzz. I’m so honoured to have won the award as it was completely unexpected, I was up against some amazing other graduates whose collections I'm still in awe of. The whole event was great and I would recommend every fashion graduate to strive to show their collections at GFW.

Photography by Jack Mitchell and Daniel Rynne

How was your time at Arts University Bournemouth? How did they prepare you for your life as a graduate? 

AUB was fantastic! The course is on the smaller side to other universities but this meant we were never short of the help we needed and the tutors are so so knowledgable! I spent the first two years of my degree focusing completely on accessories and never even contemplating moving on to menswear, in fact the first time I made a piece of clothing (other than a shirt in first year) was this time last year! It was my lecturers that really pushed me towards menswear, Iain Archer the course leader took me to one side and basically told me that he thought I should at least try menswear and put my love of details and accessories experience into a menswear collection! If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't be here now and have experienced everything that happened over the last few months and I can’t thank him enough for that.

The course itself really pushes you to create something individual but everything to be justified. We were never really told not to do something without trying it but were told ways of improving and pushing it to the next level so our creativity was never compromised. We focused massively on portfolio alongside our collection and filling it with work to show a range of skills and not just our graduate collections. This alongside visiting lecturers critiquing our portfolios really helped us all create strong industry ready work. 

Alongside winning the award, Debenhams have given you a year placement. How have you found the experience so far? 

The placement has opened my eyes massively to the industry and after three weeks I couldn't have asked for a better place to start my career. The team I work with are great and I am learning so much about designing on a more commercial level. I’m currently working on formal outerwear and tailoring for Debenhams designers which will give me the chance to work with some great established designers over the course of the year.

How does working at a large established company, differ to the studio student life?

I have to consider the end consumer in a lot more detailed way and design for a brief to fit the customer that Debenhams have established over the years. At university I could express myself and my style a lot more freely, but obviously designing for high street is a completely different scenario. There are a lot more rules to consider and details to take into consideration that I am learning about. I also don't physically make anything either, which I do miss!


Shooting my final collection with @jackcharliemitchell at @thisworkspace 📸

A post shared by Dan Rynne (@unionbrand) on

What were the main inspirations for your GFW17 collection? 

My collection is based on the work of Dorothea Lange and the Farm Security Administration. The dust bowl imagery was so striking and detailed that every image evoked some form of feeling or idea. A lot of it was inspired by the photos from that time; the colours, the fabrics, the deconstructed and reconstructed look. It all revolves around the idea of oversized clothing being universal and fitting. There’s lots of wrap around features and buttons and clasps. There’s lots of details and rivets and hardware. Menswear for me is all about the details, and I still hold that value as a core piece of my design DNA. The fabric is all hand-dyed and natural fabric. It all kind of reflects the era, whilst still being quite contemporary. I wanted to create timeless heirloom pieces that could be worn in different environments, by different genders and sizes depending who it was handed on or down too.

Your collection was hugely influenced by textures! What encouraged this idea, and do you have a theme in mind for future pieces?

I just think its another level of detail that is important in menswear, silhouette can only go so far to make pieces desirable. other than the look of a garment the first thing you notice when you pick it up is the handle and how it feels. I want my pieces to be interesting and engaging inside and out and texture is simply another detail that I think is so important in menswear. We are a sucker for detail and that should mean the whole garment’s elements should be considered. My inspiration also lead me to have a lot of textures to consider as the images showed worn and worked in garments that had a purpose and were worn until they fell apart, their texture was beautiful and I wanted my collection to truly reflect that.

I’ve actually been generating some mood boards and concepts for a new collection I hope to move forward if I do my masters. Based on the artefacts found at low tides on the Thames from London’s history; broken pottery, clay pipes, carved scrimshaw pieces by Victorian sailors, all these artefacts tell a story of their past owners, much in the way I want my clothing too. The colour combinations created by age and wear have all inspired me to want to create some beautiful menswear pieces over the next year inspired by this!

Your menswear collection was a huge success, often an overlooked element of the industry. What attracts you to menswear?

As I have said, I love detail. I find menswear consists of many staple recycled silhouettes that can be reimagined into something completely new just by changing its details. I love the utilitarian nature of menswear and how a lot of it is inspired by uniform and created out of necessity, in turn its details are reflected in this. It is studying existing menswear pieces and how I can make them better or more interesting that attracts me to menswear.

If you could choose one designer to work for or collaborate with, who would it be and why? 

I think I would have to say Ziggy Chen. I only discovered him through my lecturer earlier this year, but his use of texture, silhouette and print is awesome. Obviously you have the greats like Junya Wantanabe and Yohji Yamamoto but I find the humbleness of Ziggy Chen's designs lend his work more to my style. I have also been following the work of John Skelton, who I recommend every one to look up and appreciate the work he does! His garments are pieces of art and executed so meticulously that I am constantly in awe of what he produces in a way he reminds me very much of Paul Harnden who is also a great influence on my work.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? 

I would love to see myself producing my own collections under my name. I don't want to be just designing I want to be involved in every part of the process which I think is important for what I strive to produce, every element should be given consideration. I also understand the importance of carrying on my education and learning as much as I can at every opportunity and making the most of the opportunities that Graduate Fashion Week has opened up for me. I see this award as a beginning of a long journey to this goal and fingers crossed it happens!

 What advice would you give to our graduates showcasing in GFW18?

Don't give up! The up and coming months will be the hardest of your whole university life. You will be working harder than you ever imagined, working longer than you ever imagined and spending more money than you ever imagined but its all 100% worth it. The moment that collection walks on the catwalk is the greatest feeling knowing that you produced that from a single concept. But most of all just enjoy it, its an awesome experience that after all your hard work you deserve to enjoy!


Daniel’s dedication and determination to reach his future goals are apparent in his collections and his work ethic. As a graduate award winner, and now worker for an established company, Daniels journey is a true inspiration to future graduates hoping to showcase at GFW18; proving that if you really put your mind to it, goals can become achievable. Explaining that GFW was ‘an absolute buzz’ and ‘an awesome experience’. 



Words by Amber Whitaker