David Saunders of David David, Fashion Designer and Artist

If you were somehow unfamiliar enough with the London fashion scene that you’d never encountered the work of David David, née David Saunders, a primer in his background certainly wouldn’t help much. Saunders is best known for a whirlwind rise to prominence that began with a job as head sculptor in YBA Tracey Emin’s studio, stumbled into a fashion line that won him a coveted spot in London’s Fashion East runway show, and now entails an obligatory mention of fans like Kanye West, Agyness Deyn, and M.I.A. each time it comes up in conversation. It’s not that it’s much ado about nothing — we were huge admirers of Saunders’s line by the time we ended up in his flat last February, a block away from our favorite London boutique Darkroom — but all that star power conveys very little about a charmingly blithe collection consisting of a handful of wearable silhouettes festooned with hand-drawn kaleidoscopic graphics, except maybe how he ended up with it in the first place. “I fell into fashion by accident, really,” Saunders recalls. “It was just a process of who I was living with and what parties I was going to. I started making hand-painted t-shirts for myself, and people” — presumably the right people — “would be like, ‘Where did you get that from?’”

David David didn’t become a proper label until Saunders — who had studied fine art at Chelsea College and worked as a gallery tech before graduating to Emin’s studio — fell into the crosshairs of a fashion PR agent, who tried to sign him as a client before he even knew what his endeavor was meant to become. “It was completely ludicrous to me,” he says, because he still considered his t-shirts art; some took 6 hours to paint, others took several days. Slowly, though, as he began digitizing his pieces for production and the buzz around them grew, David David became the kind of brand that collaborated with Fred Perry and Henry Holland, was stocked in Dover Street Market, and commanded full-page coverage in the likes of Vogue UK, not to mention expanding to a full range of garments for both men and women. When we visited Saunders earlier this year, though, he was actually in the process of pulling the business back to its roots, focusing more on the core t-shirt line and looking for ways to buy himself time to return to his personal practice. “That’s the main goal for this year,” he told us. “I still draw all the time, but it quite often feels like it’s for work rather than part of my artistic process. It would be nice to work as an artist and then most likely put that work back into the company, but to at least start completely as an artist. I’m quite looking forward to that.” Check out this slideshow of photos we took inside Saunders’s home, then head over to his personal Tumblr to learn more about his point of view.