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Image / Style / Irish Design

Irish Design Spotlight: Daniel Walters


By Sarah Finnan
02nd Apr 2023
Irish Design Spotlight: Daniel Walters

A 27-year-old fashion designer based in Donegal, Daniel Walters (whose artist alias is Sad Sac), is the current creative director at Bang on the Door (Groovy Chick). Just after releasing his latest collection, Banshee of Donegal, here he tells us more about his brand and why he couldn’t help being an artist if he tried.

Tell us about you and your brand
My name is Daniel Walters, I’m a 27-year-old designer based in Donegal; current creative director of Bang On The Door (Groovy Chick). My brand and artist alias is called Sad Sac. I received this name after I dropped out of college for the second time (after only a few weeks). I was 19 and I got into a dark place mentally during that period of my life. The coming year or so consisted of late nights in my bedroom, not waking up until 5pm the next day. My mother described me as someone who never smiled and therefore started to nickname me “Sad Sac” during this time. I started to notice a huge decline in my health and I wanted something better for myself.

At the lowest point of this cycle, one night I opened up the software Microsoft Paint on my old laptop and I digitally drew an abstract face with a mental promise to myself that this image would represent a change in my life. The face became my brand mascot and the name “Sad Sac” became my brand name and artist alias. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this self-deprecating humour was my artistic expression and formed my interest in pursuing illustration and design.

What is your mission?
As an artist, I want my brand mascot to be recognised worldwide. Other than that, I just want to create innovative projects that would excite me as a consumer.

Did you always know you wanted to be a designer?
No. I couldn’t help being an artist if I tried. I’m a natural-born overthinker and problem solver. Put both of them together and you have a designer. When I started designing, I enjoyed it and I did my best but I never thought it was a realistic career. I remember going to a private career guidance councillor after doing Sad Sac for two years or so and thinking to myself, “Ok, finally now I can find out what to do with my life”. The lady did a two-hour assessment and I remember her saying, “This never happens, usually people get two or three career options but you only have one and it says, Artist”. Thus, an artist was born.

What kind of items do you stock?
Indo comic-style illustrations of my brand mascot on hoodies, t-shirts, sweatshirts etc., but I also repurpose a lot of clothes with my art. My new collection includes a series of repurposed tweed blazers and cashmere overcoats with embroidery of my illustrations. People in the fashion industry may overlook my work but I’m not in the fashion industry, I’m in the art industry. I like to think what I’m doing to my clothes is a similar formula to that which Kaws & Keith Haring applied to billboards.

What new brands or items are on your radar?
I definitely respect new brands but I wouldn’t too pay much attention to them. I’ve always been brought up in boot sales and charity shops. My interests have always included vintage clothes and antique toys. That is where I find a lot of my inspiration for design – looking back at what people did right and innovating it.

Was money/funding a concern when starting out?
No. I’ve never been funded before. I’m completely self-made. I’m still figuring things out, but I try to make it work.

Best business advice you’ve gotten
Fashion/style isn’t about what’s good or bad. It is simply just convincing someone that something is cool.

Favourite fashion/design accounts you follow
Asspizza.

Other Irish brands you love
Emporium.

Most useful learning since setting up a business
Just because you’re not in the wrong, doesn’t make you in the right.

Proudest moment so far
Dylan Minnette wearing my sweatshirt, becoming creative director of Bang On The Door, designing Declan McKenna’s Zeros tour merch for two years in a row… it’s hard to pick, but definitely one of these.

I want my brand to be remembered for… its artistic pursuit and willingness to be itself.

If I could have anyone wear my designs it would be… Robert smith.