The English designer Liam Toller has risen from a UK kid obsessed with fashion, art, design, and culture, to the art director of his very own fashion brand – Saints Diablo.
As he prepares to take the reins of one of this years most exciting new brands, we’re looking back on his career trajectory, from designing artwork for the likes of platinum recording artists The Game, Kanye West, and Rick Ross to French Montana, then collaborating and designing for some of the UK’s leading streetwear and sports brands such as JD Sports & Tessuti. Now, finally deciding to unleash his talents on his very own luxury fashion brand, this young artist has come a long way.
When he speaks about fashion and his brand, he states that he sees things differently and every piece is treated as a piece of art, the same way he would always create a design for a single or album art; that you have to be in that creative mindset and take into consideration peoples perception, when they see this artwork how will they interpret it. Fashion is a way of getting your message over to people in an art form, except he always tries to incorporate good with the bad, elements that don’t normally belong together but actually work and look great together.
What’s it like living and working in the UK as a fashion designer?
Living in the UK is cool, being so close to London is great too – there are a lot of iconic places which aid with creativity. I’m lucky that (with what I do) I can travel a lot which means I get to see different cultures, styles and pick up on a lot of trends before it reaches back home.
How would you describe the style of your designs?
It’s hard to say how I would describe my style, I see each design as a piece of art. Each design can be interpreted and seen differently by whoever it’s put in front of, I think that’s one of the things I love so much about fashion, I get to be creative, there are no rules to follow, and I get to bring my ideas to life through clothing. Whatever I create will have a different meaning to whoever sees it.
You dropped out of school at 14. How did you go from a drop out to designing artwork for brands and celebrities?
After dropping out of school, I could never find anything that really grabbed my attention or interested me. I have always been artistic even when I was a kid; I used to draw a lot, I started designing and learning how to use Photoshop back in 2008, I used to make a lot of album covers, logos and websites for independent artists and music producers.
One day The Game reached out to me and said that he loved my work and wanted to work with me, since then I have worked with Chris Brown, Jay Z, Kanye West, Rick Ross, Ty Dolla Signs, French Montana and pretty much any artist that ever needed artwork. The Game is like my big brother, I actually started my first clothing brand back in 2013 with The Game, it was called the Roley Boyz it started off as a group that we made up, The Game actually spent $100,000 on Rolex watches for the team, I designed this one piece where Mona Lisa was wearing a Rolex with the Hollywood sign in the background which was one of our best selling pieces.
At which point did you decide that you wanted to start your own fashion brand?
It was probably early 2017, as a designer I am always coming up with new concepts and designs, half of the time I just save them on my hard drive and revisit them at a later date. Having my own clothing brand was always the dream, something I have wanted to do but it all came down to timing, I was too busy working on other brands for the likes of JD Sports, Tessuti, and other popular streetwear brands that I didn’t have time to put it into my own brand. Eventually I decided it was time to focus on creating Saints Diablo.
Tell us about Saints Diablo?
Saints Diablo is a luxury fashion brand, our first collection is called “// Sin Will Find You” we use high-end materials and some of the most creative design and print techniques available. Saints Diablo is handmade in London, we create unique signature fits, styles and different looks to suit both the Saints and Diablos of this world.
What makes Saint Diablo different to other fashion brands?
Saints Diablo is different in so many ways to other brands, but mainly because it isn’t just another fashion brand; it is a canvas where I get to put all of my ideas, concepts and experiments together and bring them to life in a form of tangible art. Previously all of my designs and concepts have been in a digital format, Saints Diablo brings it all to life and gives it another dimension, I actually get to feel and wear what I’ve created.
What is the most challenging part of starting your own brand?
Being unique and creative enough to be different, you have to stand out in order to succeed and be noticed. If you can achieve that then you can have a brand that will be around forever.
Individual work can be the subject of criticism, have you ever felt criticised and how did you deal with it?
Yes, I feel like I’m my own worst critic, I’m a perfectionist and I criticise myself everyday. I take great pride in my work, even down to the way I present my work to people, so it has to be perfect or it just don’t cut it. Criticism is never a negative thing, you just have to be able to learn from it and see the positive side to it all.
When you are preparing your next design, what are you thinking about?
If, for example, I am working on a new collection then I think about how does each piece tie into the overall concept. It all starts with ideas, a lot of the time a design can start out as something and end up looking completely different than I originally thought it would. With Saints Diablo, I want every piece of art I create to have a deeper meaning, I want people to be able to look and feel the quality of the brand and know there is a lot more than just some graphics on a T-shirt, I am creating art that people can wear.
What was your most recent design piece and how did it differ from your very first?
I’m currently working on a piece for our next collection called “// Modern Art” I am mixing classic art pieces with real pictures that don’t necessarily belong together, but combined they work perfectly. I want Saints Diablo to have a sense of continuity in every collection, brand continuity is really important and I feel that the look I am creating for Saints Diablo is something that is different to everything else that is out there. Even when it came down to choosing the face of the brand and who was going to be the model. I knew it had to be someone special, I received hundreds of submissions from models that have worked with a lot of big brands but none of them stood out to me until the submission from @terencea1 landed in my inbox, straight away I was like wow, this is it, this is the face of Saints Diablo. He has this look about him that just tied in perfectly with everything I wanted to achieve.
Do you draw inspiration from anything or anyone to aid creativity?
Yeah, a lot of it comes from music and other great artists such as Banksy, Basquiat, Kaws and Andy Warhol, I get inspiration from all of them really, even though my style is different, people that think differently and create unique pieces of art and music are always an inspiration to me.
Which piece is your favourite in this AW18 collection?
My personal favourite is the “// Sin Will Find You” T-shirt, there’s something about that piece that I really like, from the oversized bespoke fit of the garment to the printing technique we chose for the design it just works really well and feels and looks great.
Finally, where can our readers shop your collection?
Everything is available on www.saintsdiablo.com however, we are currently in talks with a few different stores in the UK and United States about stocking the brand with them too, all of that will be announced on our social media accounts @saintsdiablo
Designer: Liam Toller
Photographer: Dan Wallis