Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that believes that beauty is synonymous with the “imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.” Its ideals include a deep appreciation for the integrity of nature, which Daniel ascribes to his life and fuels the manifestation of his dreams. A respect for the temporal and a sense of serene melancholy pervades his films, paintings, poetry, eye for casting, spirituality and style. Despite his cosmopolitan status, designer duds and a rocking business that makes runway and editorial stars of previously unknowns, Daniel’s rural North Carolina roots remain apparent in his humility. “I feel rooted in the earth and when I start to lose touch with that, I feel the impact on my well being,” the anthropology major says.
Whether it’s a Phillip Lim snakeskin tee, an authentic shaman necklace with magical powers attributed to each trinket or a goatskin shoulder bag found in a Budapest gypsy market, Daniel’s prolific artistic callings are driven by his attraction to the variability of the natural world. When casting models, Daniel prefers quirky people who are not necessarily photogenic: “I get a sense of their energy, it’s not just about the way they look.” He recently discovered Stephen Thompson, a model with albinism, on a Brooklyn promenade, who has gone on to be featured in Givenchy’s men’s campaign. Daniel says, “It was truly a vision. It was dusk and he was walking towards me and his skin was glowing and his eyes were purple.” He also finds it cool to find people who are naive with visible potential – he likens finding them to picking up stones in a creek and looking for crayfish.
On casting his most recent feature film, titled Trail Angels, Daniel says it takes a lot of time to capture a subculture because you want to represent it but at the same time something a little off makes them more interesting. The film is about a group of blue collar workers who voluntarily live on the Appalachian trail in order to help hikers who travel the entire trail, from Georgia to Maine, in five months. Every movie that Daniel has made has been such a life-changing experience that he submerges himself in the subculture being depicted and begins to look like the characters unintentionally. When editing the footage of the Trail Angels, he noticed that he was starting to resemble a hiker, a noticeable juxtaposition to his recent top hat from Paris. His love of bringing characters to life with clothing is evidenced by a Harriet Tubman epic poem that his partner, Drew Dasent, embroidered into a pair of army pants. After seeing Greek sculptures at the Louvre, a Pan and satyr fetish inspired him to buy a furry pair of trousers in Japan. Last year, he was in a disheveled vagabond chimney sweep mode with a Marc Jacobs cashmere hoodie, distressed Junya Watanabe toggle coat and flawlessly “dusty” boots that were falling apart.
Daniel’s intuition that models with good style are creative and can understand fashion better in their work, can be said about him. His studded Converse are an expert contrast to his down to earth layers, Native American pouch and earthy Comme des Garcons blazer. And his ability to see the beauty of the diminishing shine of his Margiela sneakers as the sequins fall off mirrors to the profundity of his wabi-sabi vision.