Yaku Stapleton’s Versatility Paves the Way for Futuristic Fashion

Image courtesy of dazed.com

Within the fashion industry, there are a finite number of designers that go above and beyond when it comes to creativity and versatility. With many fashion talents scattered around the world, Yaku Stapleton is one of those designers that is pushing the proverbial fashion envelope.

Stapleton’s philosophy on design draws upon Astrofuturism, a concept that explores the elements of science fiction and African mythology in support of black identity. It’s fascinating to see how Stapleton designs with expression and introspection of his own thoughts and personal identity. His work, although personal, shows how the future of design lies within the creator who is constantly striving to adapt and innovate to the changing world.

Images courtesy of dazed.com

Yaku Stapleton is from the cathedral city of St. Albans, just outside of London in England. He entered the university with a focus on geography and later ended up switching to fashion. When Stapleton got the opportunity to attend Central Saint Martins, a prestigious arts school in London, he further explored his fashion interests combined with personal aspects of his life. This included things like being with family, video games like RuneScape, card games, and the generalities of his life.

In February, Stapleton won the L’Oréal Professional Creative Award, the top honor for the Central Saint Martins’ MA fashion show for his 2023 collection. This show was presented during London Fashion Week and featured the schools’ most cultivated designers from their prestigious graduate program. Stapleton’s graduate collection, entitled “The Impossible Family Reunion in RPG Space: Research into the Afro-Futurism Movement,” envisioned members of his family as characters in the RPG (Role-playing Game) RuneScape. Each garment was beautifully designed and intricately built to perfection.

Stapleton’s fashion collections are not meant to be runway spectacles, rather an examination of the concept of living and designing beyond oneself. Each new design demonstrates the power of what can blossom by seeking out distractions from the unpleasantries of the world that encapsulates us.

Fashion Reverie: Family is a huge reference point for you in your work with clothes and furniture. Can you go into detail about those alternate realities that draw on inspiration from RPG games like RuneScape? 

Yaku Stapleton: When thinking about RuneScape, it was about thinking about the game itself and how the game felt when stepping into this alternate world. But, it was also about thinking how people around me felt at the time and then capturing that emotion of how they felt. My sister, for example, was quite scary when she was a teenager, and I was an annoying six-year-old. So, I channeled that emotion and then created characters that relay that sense of feeling and other characters of those people during that specific time in life. 

Images courtesy of Yaku Stapleton

FR: Once you take a character and give it inspiration, what is the next step in your creative process?  

Yaku Stapleton: When I created these characters, my thought was to translate the digital and abstract view of these different family members into real life. I wanted to find the balance between this super raw digital look and combine that with functional fashion that can be worn and be experienced outside of the collection itself. 

FR: What does your work aim to do in terms of creating a universal message?  

Yaku Stapleton: My work is constantly building on the past and so that really helps me to continue researching new aspects and ideas. The concepts for my designs came from looking at perception and scale of human form. 

FR: Can you discuss how you go about the conceptualization of your work between fashion and furniture? 

Yaku Stapleton: Furniture, specifically in the concept of fashion is quite interesting to me. It is important to look at how the concepts and ideas that I create, mainly in fashion, can then be applied to different practices that are outside of clothes since that transition helps you to see the strength of the concept itself. 

FR: How have you incorporated sustainability into your designs?  

Yaku Stapleton: The sustainable efforts began during the COVID-19 lockdown when I wasn’t earning money, so I needed to find materials. So, I was taking scrap wood and staple guns and using what I learned from past research of having an essence to carry things forward.

I was not necessarily aiming to be sustainable but after realizing few designers have that approach, I quickly began seeing a lot more intrigue surrounding that aspect of my work. Creating something that doesn’t look like waste adds another layer of telling people that you can design and create interesting things without destroying the planet. 

Image courtesy of Yaku Stapleton

FR: What can the fashion industry look forward to from you? 

Yaku Stapleton: Expect a summer capsule that’s direct to consumer. I want to build an understanding and provide some access to the pieces that I am working on now for summer. Beyond the summer collection, [people can] expect me to continue adding new reference points.

 I find it important to self-critique by examining what has been done before and continuing this expansion outside of just fashion. There are a lot of new people in my audience, so it would be nice to show people that I am continuing to adapt my approach to entirely brand-new concepts.  

—Ryan Salfino


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