While the ideal is to be cunningly adroit at wielding a sewing machine or have enough cash to invest in some of the bespoke Gothic Couture designs, most of us need to make do with the “alternative high street”. Luckily there are a number of brands that provide us with great quality and variety. Providing us with an off the peg outfit – or even better a base for customisation and accessorising! It’s always nice to find out a little bit about the companies you buy from, especially as you are not only lining their pockets, but are using them to create your personal fashion statement. Dr Faust is one such company, and I took the time to speak with Leonardo Swan, Maestro of Design at Dr Faust Clothing.
You have surpassed the monumental 30 years mark, to what do you attribute your success?
Dr Faust has survived 30 years of designing original and unusual fashion because we have a passionate & dedicated team of designers, stylists & artists who love being creative and seeing their unique imaginings in retailers throughout the world! This is backed up by a bespoke IT system which allows us to offer a fast processing and shipping service.
Have you found that the recession has affected your business? Why, why not and how?
The recession has had an effect on our sales but as we sell globally what we lose from one country is usually picked up by another. We are gaining lots of customers in Australia with our polka dot ranges, the Eastern Block countries with our hardcore punk ranges and the US with our steampunk ranges. There is no obvious best seller at the moment!
Could you tell me about the company’s beginnings? Who started it and what made you decide to cater for the alternative scene?
Dr Faust was started by myself and Sol Desjardins with a group of enthusiastic friends from Londons vibrant & energising Soho district. We decided to open a shop where we could cater for the emerging alternative clothing scene. We travelled to London and Manchester every month buying and trading garments. The shops success gave us the confidence and resources to begin the creation of our own label.
How did the name Dr Faust come to be chosen? Many of my readers will intrigued by the choice.
Well now that’s a strange story. We had been out for a night celebrating the birth of Sols beautiful second daughter Marianna when we came across a young street performer. He was certainly drawing a crowd with his soulful saxaphone. We stayed for a time and eventually during a break in his performance we approached to get the guys story. He wove a tale of flight from persecution after being accused of bargaining his soul for the worldly pleasures of a girl from another village. Perhaps a little too full of cheer we hung on every word as his life was laid out in spectacular fashion. Each event seeming more enchanting than the last. Now whether the tale was entirely made up I could not say but it did remind Walker (Hitchens – Dr Fausts lead Graphic Designer) of an old German Legend he had heard as a child of Doctor Faustus who traded his soul to the Devil in return for worldly pleasures. As we looked at the legends we realised the character and legend fitted with our designs & styles so Dr Faust was born.
Being one of the major alternative brand names around, how do you find competition in the marketplace? How would you say you differ from what others have to offer?
When we first started there were very few companies in the UK manufacturing alternative clothing but now we have competition from all over the world. New and original competition is welcome as it spurs our designs and allows the market to grow. Watered down imitations of good designs are not well received. The customer base for the alternative scene carry a large amount of knowledge and certainly don’t tolerate low quality or poor design.
Who designs your clothing? Why have you chosen to keep this all local and in-house?
We have a full design studio, printers and warehouse in the UK where we produce all our designs. We have a small but dedicated core design team which has, for the most part, been unchanged since the early days in Soho. This team is complemented by guest designers from local art schools & like any business we have an ebb & flow to our satellite design teams. Designing everything in house gives us flexibility and allows us to really experiment with different ideas.
Where is the strangest or furthest place you have supplied?
We have sold around the world but the strangest sale I can recall was a Corset for a nunnery.
How many alternative people do you employ within the business? Do you think it’s important to keep in touch with the scene you supply?
Our staff range from the apprentice warehouse lad with dreadlocks to the 65 year old accountant with the blue rinse who thinks most of our designs are “A bit odd” as she puts it. Diversity is our watchword we have Native Scots, English, Welsh, Italian, French, Polish, Moroccan & a Wiccan Pagan from Derby on our team. True creativity requires a diverse base and we are proud of ours.