Nicholas Daley is celebrating music and roots through menswear
Put simply, Nicholas Daley is one of the most exciting up-and-coming names in UK fashion right now. There’s been hype around the London-based menswear designer ever since he founded his eponymous brand five years ago and since then he’s only gone from strength to strength. A 2013 graduate of Central Saint Martin’s, Daley’s designs are an inherently personal exploration of his own mixed Scottish-Jamaican heritage and modern day British multiculturalism. Far from being esoteric, the result is completely wearable clothing stocked at the likes of Dover Street Market and Mr Porter, with an emphasis on quality, local craftsmanship you’d expect from a man who’s worked on Savile Row and keeps the sourcing of fabrics and production in the UK as far as possible.
His love of music is another big influence that often seeps into his work, and especially his shows, which can be traced back to his parents who started one of Scotland’s first reggae nights in Dundee in the late 70s after meeting in the city. He cites the music he was exposed to growing up as a key part of his creative education and built on his family’s history by recreating Reggae Klub for one night only at V&A Dundee last year with his dad Jeffrey, aka IMan SLYGo, playing records and his mum Maureen leading a knitting workshop.
Challenging the notion of what fashion shows ‘should’ be, his AW18 collection ‘Red Clay’ drew on the fashion of Miles Davis and was presented in the form of London artists including James Massiah and Nabihah Iqbal performing while wearing the pieces. He’s also worked with Adidas and Fred Perry, again taking inspiration from the latter’s musical heritage fusing punk and reggae for a AW20 collection that featured a liberal sprinkling of tartan among reworked classics. Community in collaboration are important to Daley too – together with Fred Perry he launched a grant for unsigned artists to go along with his collection and a section of the profits from his Reggae Klub t-shirts went to jazz education and artist development organisation Tomorrow’s Warriors.
The BUILDHOLLYWOOD family are excited to be linking up with Nicholas for his first poster campaign as we begin a series of fashion collaborations at a tough time for the industry and emerging designers in particular. With spaces across London, we’re celebrating Daley with a retrospective of his last year’s work featuring the photography of Piczo and Bolade Banjo as well as the illustrations of Gaurab Thakali. The campaign also highlights his upcoming 2021 Now Gallery immersive exhibition RETURN TO SLYGO, a ‘celebration of music, culture, fashion and ancestry’ which will blend his three core values of community, culture and craftsmanship. The campaign will also start up again for a second phase before London Fashion Week in February. Check out the interview below.
We caught up with the man himself to find out more about his inspirations, thoughts on the role of the designer and more.
Nicholas, tell us a little bit about your background and how your life story plays into setting up your label and the work you do today?
I come from a dual heritage background and I have been exposed to many different cultures since my early childhood. London is a great city to be based with so many different communities it is a true melting pot, and you can draw inspiration from many different cultural sources – I would not want to have my studio anywhere else!
Can you talk us through your inspirations? What impact have they had on your work?
My biggest Inspiration is my parents, they’ve been my key teachers and source of inspiration. They’ve exposed me to different cultures, music and a sense of identity, this is the reason why they always feature so heavily in my work, shows, exhibition and even in the Gaurab drawings.
Everything they’ve done with music and showing me so many cultures, has been the foundation for me to do my designs as well as how I communicate them, bringing people together through music and fashion.
I always draw inspiration from many points but they must feel authentic and have a strong narrative. During my design process I think about many factors: fabrics, music and even the characters which empower the collection. For SS21 Stepping Razor collection I looked at the legendry Peter Tosh and his love for martial arts. This led me to feature Jordan Thomas as the focal character for the look book who is Britain’s first European and world champion in Karate for over 12 years. For me, looking at inspiration at strong black characters like peter tosh and someone like Jordan now who is showcasing British black excellence is very important for me and how my work can highlight other talented individuals.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for new designers starting out today?
With these unprecedented times it’s really important to continue to create with realistic goals. Being in this industry, it can take a while to build your understanding of all the different attributes needed, production, finance, teamwork, fashion shows etc. There’s a lot of elements to perfect. New Designers need to work hard and stay true to their own narrative.
Tell us about your poster campaign, collaborating with Bolade Banjo, Piczo and Gaurab Thakali. Why is it important for you to collaborate with other creatives and how do you choose them?
Every season I collaborate with like-minded individuals; artists, poets, musicians, illustrators which I feel creates a stronger narrative. Every collaborator I work with comes through an organic process, either people who’s work I really like or I know through mutual friends.
It’s important in times like this to stick together and continue working with fellow creatives to continue pushing boundaries.
The poster campaign is a great way to celebrate this year’s key moments through the collaborators I’ve worked with, from Bolade’s photography from Abstract Truth, Piczo work in Astro Black to Gaurab’s illustrations and visuals across both the Winter and Summer 2020 collections. A retrospective of 2020, moving forward into 2021.
Music has always seemed to be a part of what you do. What is it about combining music and fashion in your work and your shows that’s so compelling to you?
My parents ran one of the earliest reggae clubs in Scotland during 78-82. They met each other in Dundee and found a mutual bond in reggae music. During this time not many promoters put on Caribbean and African music so my parents wanted to bring people together and promote the music they both loved. My dad has many vinyl records as he had his own sound system called “Iman Slygo” and I still listen to his record collection today which has had a big creative influence in my outlook on music.
As a fashion designer, how would you define your role in society – do you believe fashion can be a force for good in our communities and can it change people’s attitude toward social issues?
I feel that my role as a British Black designer within the fashion world, is that I need to tell the stories that I believe in and tell them authentically.
I do think fashion can be used as a force for good and support different social and political moments but it takes all designers and people from different levels within the industry to implement it. For example, I’ve used fashion in positive ways for 2020 through launching a music grant with Fred Perry, supporting local UK talent as well as launching a Reggae Klub T-Shirt in collaboration with and proceeds going to Tomorrow’s warriors a UK Jazz grassroots organisation. With everything going on in 2020 with BLM, LGBQT+ and COVID it’s been a pro-active year for positive change within the creative industries.
What’s next for Nicholas Daley?
2021 brings my exhibition Return to Slygo at The Now Gallery at Greenwich Peninsula. This will be a celebration of music, culture, fashion and ancestry and is a very important moment to showcase my world to friends, family and the wider community on so many different points which I feel strongly about.
It also brings the end of the Music Grant with Fred Perry in which the talented Grant Winner; Aidan will be going into the studio in January to record. I’m looking forward to seeing what Aidan and the other runners-up do and continue to offer support where needed.
I’m currently working on the new collection for AW21, which will have some interesting collaborations for the seasons ahead. Overall, I feel happy and fortunate that I’m still in the position to keep creating and maintaining momentum moving forward through my own collection and up-coming projects.