First published in the Norwegian Financial Daily's lifestyle magazine PremiumMarch 2019 issue
All photographs courtesy of Ollie Adegboye.
Nicholas Daley creates garments the way a chef would prepare a meal - one ingredient and colour at a time.
Imagine a large room. The audience stands on one side and a band on the other, like any intimate concert. But the band is not just anyone; they’re a group of young, professional jazz musicians from London. The new generation. Dressed in tweed pants, oversized sixpence hats and shiny brown corduroy pants, the music fills the room as they jam together. There’s an electric vibe through the venue and it feels more like a party than a fashion show.
Daley's twist on fashion shows is not a riot against London Fashion Week, of which this is a part of after all. On the contrary. Through challenging the concepts of what a fashion show is, and can be, he seeks to be an alternative voice in the industry. – Fashion is culture, music, style and identities. It can be so much more than the industry is showing so far. I'm a drop in the ocean, so I have the opportunity to do other things than the big fashion houses can.
It's not just about fashion for Daley. The sounds, smells and moods are important ingredients in the overall experience he creates for his audience. They work as another dimension to the collection's elements, taken from the 50's and 60's jazz legends such as Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane. But there’s nothing new in utilising music as inspiration in clothing production. Genres like grunge, punk, reggae and techno often come back in trend intervals. Daley knows all this, which is why he’s working towards doing things a little differently. So who is this guy and what is behind all the hype?
His hair is assembled in long dreadlocks, a half-length beard frames his face and he’s often seen wearing a Baker Boy hat from his own label. He was raised in Leicestershire, but has been London-based since graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2014. Daley will soon turn 30 and he talks enthusiastically about his own roots, with a father from Jamaica and mother from Scotland, and how that multiculturalism has become a kind of filter through which he draws inspiration in his work. He often comes back to the story of his parents, who ran one of Scotland's first reggae clubs from 1978-1982, and how the club brought together the local community. – Investing in the local community by bringing together people through music and good vibes is something I grew up with. So in that respect you can probably say I’m continuing the family tradition.
His musical influences came early through his father's large record collection, which is still extensively used by Daley to draw inspiration for new collections. As with music, crafts have a long tradition on both sides of his family. He proudly tells of the grandfather who made coffins and the women on his mother's side who have always knitted - and now knits for his collections. Daley uses a lot from his multicultural background in his work. And with fashion and tailoring as tools, he explores what it means to be a young British man today. – I try to explore identity around having a multicultural background and what it means to be British. Me as a person appears in my collections as a designer. Everything is connected.
He compares his creative process to preparing a meal, and he always starts with fabric as a base. He then moves on to the ingredients – like music or colors from a vinyl cover – until it evolves into something he believes in. The brand is gradually built up using locally produced materials, British tailor traditions and solid fabrics. Through his jazz collection Red Clay, Daley explored the relationship between tweed and the fabric’s central role within jazz culture. The way legends such as Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock dressed in tweed inspired Daley to combine elements from jazz with the craft tradition from his own Scottish background. But Daley doesn't buy ready made fabrics from tweed mills, like other designers of his size do. He wanted to make them himself.
A collaboration was made with the Scottish manufacturer Lovat, to develop a thicker fish bone-woven tweed for Red Clay. Like most things Daley does, the tweed challenges the traditional framework of how the fabric should be, and presents new possibilities in the craft. This is how he works with all his collections, which are based on fusioning his garments with different music genres that have influenced British culture. So far he’s explored the energy from british punk, but especially dub and reggae, which came across the sea with former British slaves from the Jamaican colonies. This is also an important part of the stories Daley tells through his collections. – For me it is important to be authentic and tell honest stories about ideas and production, to finish garments. To act as a counterpart to the “fast-fashion” ›trend that is currently ruling. People want to buy something they believe in.
Daley is enthusiastic when he shares his experiences from working with other young creatives, which is a great source of inspiration for him. Together they create designs, music, films and experiences across disciplines. That is the most important thing for him – to grow together through collaboration, rather than using each other for the hype. – Ultimately I want to make a good product. Success is an important goal for me. But that success is also part of others' success – to compliment and influence each other's work. A dialogue rather than a monologue.
His creative partners and collaborators also happen to be the brand's target audience. Alternative, young and creative people. Those who, according to Daley, want a new and alternative voice in the fashion industry. Daley explains how music and fashion have always gone hand in hand, but collections reflecting this fusion have not come straight from the target audience themselves. He is speaking of people bored with trends from big fashion houses being inspired by different countries, ethnicities and movements. Or embarrassed by attempts of simply trying to combine elements from subcultures with collections. But what could be wrong with that? Daley points out that brands can come up with reggae-inspired collections that often end up looking like something doesn't quite fit. – I think there will be a change in the industry with more minority designers reaching the surface. They have different stories to tell and they tell them in completely new ways then what has been done so far. There is a new wave of diverse minority designers coming, especially in the British fashion industry. This will definitely change the authenticity of how these fusions are put to life.
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