Meet the fashion designer championing British craft
In 2017 Leicester-born and London-based Nicholas Daley joined the likes of Alexander McQueen, and Simone Rocha after winning the prestigious NewGen award by the British Fashion Council. After spending time working on Savile Row, Nicholas grew an appreciation for preserving British craft. He has since tried to support the industry by ensuring that all the brand’s production is retained within the UK, and where possible fabrics are sourced locally.
With both Paris and London Fashion Week out the way, we met with fashion designer and music lover Nicholas Daley to discuss his latest collection and inspirations.
How did you get started in fashion?
I studied fashion design at Central Saint Martins and learnt the basics such as pattern cutting, draping and garment design. During this time, I also interned at a variety of fashion brands such as Paul Smith and spent time working on Savile Row.
After this I worked for Nigel Cabourn, which was a great experience to understand how a menswear brand functions and to expand my knowledge on British manufacturing. My label began when BEAMS Japan bought my graduate collection and introduced my label into the Japanese market. Since then I have presented my Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter 2018 collections during London Fashion Week Men’s as part of the British Fashion Council’s NewGen programme.
Do you feel living and working in London impacts on the designs of your looks?
Living in London has always influenced my work - from my first collection to my most recent. For my Spring/Summer 2018 collection Madras, I spent a lot of time in East London like Green Street, Brick Lane, and Whitechapel. This influenced my choices for fabrics, textures and colours. For Autumn/Winter 2018, all of the artists I collaborated with are London-based and that was something I wanted to show at my presentation. We have such a wealth of creative minds in different mediums and it is great if we can all come together, and exchange our creativity through art, music and fashion.
What inspires your collections?
For this Autumn/Winter 2018 collection Red Clay, I researched the relations between tweed and jazz. I was primarily looking at jazz musicians such as Miles Davis who not only was a great musician but also made his message through his style and continually transforming it with his music. I also work from vintage garments and try to collect as much primary research as possible. I feel the more personal the research and ideas are, the more individual the collection will be.
Music seems to play a big part of your work. Can you tell us why?
Music has been a major influence in my work and my life. Growing up my father would always be playing reggae, dub, and soul music. On the other hand, my mother would be playing Joni Mitchell so I was brought up on a very diverse soundscape. I believe this is why each season’s collection has a strong focus on music and it’s great to collaborate with different artists and musicians such as Don Letts, Young Fathers, and Bradley Zero to name a few. For my Spring/Summer 2018 presentation I had a live sitar performance by DJ/artist Nabihah Iqbal and Golu Singh.
I continued the live music theme for my most recent London Fashion Week Men’s presentation. For my Red Clay collection, I had contemporary British jazz artists Yussef Dayes, Mansur Brown, Alfa Mist and Shabaka Hutchings performing a live session. The show also included spoken word artist James Massiah, with Judah Afriyie and long-term collaborator Nabihah Iqbal hosting and DJing vinyl records.
Each musician was wearing a bespoke outfit and I felt this conveyed the collection as the clothing was being worn by actual musicians rather than normal fashion models, which again ties in with my appreciation of music and fashion together.
Why are themes of multiculturalism so important in your work?
I come from a mixed ethnic background. My mother is from Scotland and my father is from Jamaica so I have experienced a diverse upbringing my whole life - I guess multiculturalism is part of my DNA. This naturally transcends into all aspects of my work whether it is through casting for my shows or in the research itself. It always plays an integral part of my ethos and something I wish to celebrate.
Can you tell us more about your most recent collection?
This season’s collection is entitled Red Clay after one my favourite jazz albums by Freddie Hubbard. The colour palette for this collection came from referencing Blue Note record sleeves and the artwork of Jean-Michel Basquiat. As I collaborated with jazz musicians I had several conversations with them on what type of clothing suits their playing style, and what they look for in a garment when they are performing. This is the reason why the collection silhouette is loose in shape such as the oversized tweed mac coat or the high waisted ‘zoot suit style trousers’. I wanted the garments to be free with movement.
Tell us a bit about the making process?
I try to produce as much of my clothing and fabrics in the UK as possible. I personally enjoy visiting my manufacturers and suppliers, which also gives me a real understanding of the full production process of each item. For example, for Red Clay I developed a bespoke herringbone tweed in Scotland and selected the weight, yarn colours, and finish. This created a beautiful fabric that shows true craftsmanship and creativity. I also developed the collection through my vintage archive which I have been developing over the last few years. I feel it’s always interesting to take something from the past and make it new.
What do you love about British craft and how does this relate to your work?
We have such a rich wealth and tradition of British textiles and manufacturing so this is something I always incorporate into my collections. For my very first collection whilst studying at Central Saint Martins, I collaborated with renowned British milliners Christys’ and also again for Red Clay working on two styles with them, the Baker Boy, and Pork Pie. For the Red Clay collection, I also collaborated with George Cox shoemakers on two bespoke styles: the Low Cut Trainer and Monk Strap Gibson. I visited the George Cox factory in Northampton and I was blown away by how many individual processes have to go into producing a handmade shoe – it is true craftsmanship!
What are you most looking forward to in 2018?
I am looking forward to seeing the reaction to my clothing in new regions such as China and North America as this will be the first season entering into these markets. I want to try new things and collaborate with more people so I can continue to learn my craft.