Fashion, dance, Japanese culture and spirituality. Can you combine them all? Wayne Daniels of Lost Spirit Lounge believed he could – and he did, creating an online clothing brand to combine culture with all things dance. We spoke to him to find out what influenced his love of culture and what made him take the plunge and start his own thing.

Tell us about your business and what makes you tick?

I’m a designer and my business is Lost Spirit Lounge. It’s a dance wear and casual wear apparel company. We design anything for dance – anything to motivate dancers. I’ve always been a fan of dance, and when I was looking around I really felt like there was something missing. The whole K Pop (Korean Pop) scene is something that I have been interested in for a long time. I thought that there were a lot of people who for example wear football jerseys because they really love football, but there was nothing specific for people who love dance. You may see them on the streets but you would never know that that person was a professional in their industry. I really believe that clothing is an expression of who you are. I want to express that for dancers. That’s why I started this company.

So how is it that you came to be an entrepreneur? Tell us a little bit about your background?

It has been a really long journey. I originally had a partner in a web design company. We had picked up a lot of experience working with people who had restaurants, coffee shops, car-driving companies, etc. We did some business for a Japanese restaurant, and ended up making a small delivery company. From there, I really enjoyed designing marketing material and flyers and websites, etc. I realised I have a passion for design – I’d even been designing Simpsons T shirts since I was a teenager. It really just came together. After a while, I started to do various different businesses. I went into an interior design company that was Polish and Japanese which was a really interesting mix, trying to suit everybody’s tastes and bring them all together, as well as the taste of the client.

The one difficult thing about designing is that even though I have the vision and the skill to be able to put something across, perhaps that business owner doesn’t understand it the way that you do or they have their own vision of what they want it to look like, so you have to go with that and even sometimes take back a bit of your vision and go with whatever they want to. Sometimes your artistry doesn’t really come out that way. So I thought I really want to have something which I can express all of my thought, all of my design, all the history which I’ve learnt into one thing. Another interest I have is psychology. I like to understand the way people think, what makes people flow and why they do certain things. I try to take a piece of that and spread positivity in the messages which I like to convey. It doesn’t even have to be in English, for example a Japanese saying, like “Light is darkest underneath the lighthouse.” It evokes some kind of thought. Through thought, they can improve their lives and even improve their career and therefore their success. Through the brand, I’m able to do so.

Wayne Daniels from LostSpiritLounge

And your background? Anyone from your family who influenced you?

None at all. I think my family thinks I’m quite strange and crazy to be running a business.

My father did have a painting and decorating company but it was many years ago. I was a baby. But because I know he did do it, I know it’s possible for myself. That may have contributed to having a little bit of confidence towards starting my own business. My mother creates wedding dresses and bridal accessories and I have motivated her to sell online.  I guess seeing her in the clothing industry may have unconsciously blended into my whole environment.

Painting plus clothing?  

Yeah, painting plus clothing. Really my painting has been on the computer because I’m a computer geek. I can’t live without a laptop. All my designing is done on there. But I try to incorporate more paper use because you can really get your ideas flowing. There’s a lot of psychology for why using pen and paper is much better than just sitting on a computer.

And your family? Do they support you?

My mother really understands what I’m doing because I’m able to explain to her in great detail. My father doesn’t quite understand the angle which I’m coming from because he doesn’t understand the elements of using computers and clothing and how big the dance industry is. For example take Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor. Everyone needs back up dancers. But it’s an industry that’s lacking. It’s hard to get work. I’d like to be some kind of charitable hero in which they all can look towards the Lost Spirit Lounge as a help. I want to bond the world through dance. If I go back in history, if I look in India, if I look in Tibet, every single one of these countries has a very ancient tradition towards spirituality and dance. It’s even an expression for how they worship their gods and bond with one another. They all listen to one type of music and they’re able to have some kind of invisible bond. It’s something which you can’t really describe in words. That’s very interesting to me. Even some marriage ceremonies are unified by dance. It’s like an art form that I want to express through clothing so we can understand one another. That’s why I intend to bring the brand around the world. I’m trying to do this with a different approach. I want to open a dance hall-slash-retail clothing shop so you’ll be able to catch the eye of customers when they walk past. It’s an open window where you can say, “Oh, there’s an activity going on. Let’s go and have a look,” and then “There’s a dancewear shop next door as well,” where dancers are able to come. We will set up computers where they can research dance companies which they perhaps want to go and work for. It’s like a small university resource for them to further themselves.

LSL product

A dance campus basically?

A little bit more commercial but a relaxed sort of environment, hence why I called it Lounge. It’s like spiritually connecting dance to clothing. It’s an expression method. If you imagine our brand story as a movie… set in a world after a war… the country of Imperial Japan needing to rebuild the world in its own image, yet this culture on art is a long forgotten memory. It’s a time of survival and there’s only one sanctuary that vows to bring back the treasures of the former world – music, art, culture. And it’s called the Lost Spirit Lounge. Everything in our brand is centred around this story.

We use Japanese characters in some of our designs with messages like “Fight for yourself” or “Bring yourself out. Express yourself.” This is how we’re supposed to be. We’re not supposed to be oppressed. We’re supposed to be free. Dance is the easiest way to have free expression. It’s authentic. It’s in the moment. It can’t be copied. It can be choreographed for maybe mass dance, but that moment can only be produced once. You’ll never be in that spot ever again. That’s what I’m trying to convey.

LSL product2

Where does your interest in Japanese and Korean culture come from?

Surprisingly, I’ve never actually been to Japan. But I have a martial arts background. I’m also interested in spirituality and a lot of the old stories in various countries, such as Norwegian, Spanish, Islamic, and especially Japanese. This has been a strong influence. As I began to read all these different texts, I realised there’s a lot of words you don’t understand. Then I started to read about the languages and Japanese culture and stories struck a chord with me. Then as I did business with various Japanese people in England, I thought, “I think I should learn the language because when I do go over to Japan, I will absorb a lot more than I do right now.” I always had plans to go to Japan, but I’ve always been busy with my businesses, so I’ve had my Japanese experience in London.

Do you work with a business partner?

I don’t have a business partner for this business because I’ve learnt that sometimes working from your own point of view allows you to express yourself, whereas having a partner, sometimes views can conflict, which is not always bad, but sometimes conflict improves yourself. I have often worked with my friend Zia Rahim who I started the web design business with. He’s very extroverted and I’m very introverted, and our personalities kind of balanced out. We influenced each other. I tend to keep my thoughts to myself, but from listening to him, I felt I understood the value of getting your thoughts out and getting your opinion across. The importance of communication.