London Collection Men’s AW19 – an interview with Nicholas Daley

As a cast of models and creatives dressed in checked trousers, denim-on-denim ensembles and his classic oversized baker boy hats walked through the space between rows of guests, Nicholas Daley appeared behind a gold fringe curtain, smiling and waving at cameras and the audience. The London-based designer is known for showcasing his collections in the form of small music sessions that create an intimate setting between the hand-picked musicians, the fashion-savvy audience and himself.

His latest collection, entitled ‘Black Ark’, is named after the Jamaican music studio of the legendary music producer Lee Scratch Perry, who served as one of the main inspirations this season. The presentation, which took place at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, was proceeded by a traditional catwalk show, a premiere for Daley. “I felt like this would be another way to engage with my audience.”, he said about his decision. According to the press release, the finalist of the Woolmark prize collaborated with Lovat, a Scotland-based tweed mill, as well as Hancock, known for its well-crafted, ‘seam-tapered’ coats.

After his AW18 ‘Red Clay’ collection, a jazz session inspired by Freddie Hubbard’s 1970s album, and his SS19 ‘SLYGO’ collection, a celebration of his parents running one of the first reggae clubs in Scotland, for AW19 Daley has explored the intersection between dub and punk music, finding its influence on British music to be significant. The designer explains, “Slygo and Red Clay were like side A and side B of an album, now I need to do the second album”.

What is it about combining music and fashion in the form of a presentation that’s so compelling to you?

The synergy between music and fashion seems natural to me. Through my presentations, I always want to create an experience, a world for people to enter. It’s not just about the clothing – it’s about the sound, the smell, the visual stimulus that creates something very powerful and unique.

Could you talk us through your presentation format and your collaborators?

The presentation for the AW19 collection, titled ‘Black Ark’, is set at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. South London musician Puma Blue and reggae/dub legend Dennis Bovell are both collaborating with me on the show because I feel like these two musicians are not only pivotal in their work, but also represent the complexity of British subcultures. Puma Blue and Bovell both reinstate the feeling and authenticity of this season’s collection by exploring the British music landscape.

This is the first season I’ve incorporated a runway show. I felt like this would be another way to engage with my audience. I knew that even the casting of selected artists and creatives who walked the runway together with some models could convey my message and create a unique family and community feeling.

Nicholas Daley, AW19 runway collection. All images © Nigel Pacquette.

Your parents ran one of the first reggae clubs in Scotland. How does that particular period in your family’s history trickle down to your work?

It’s an important legacy in my family and something I’m very proud of. At the time, my parents were just bringing people together through good music and a sense of community. It’s a story deeply intertwined in my family’s history and it constantly finds its way into my work. Even to this day, I feel like it’s important to honour their work and continue spreading the message. For my SS19 collection, titled SLYGO, we re-released my dad’s record and club t-shirt. That period in my family’s history was the integral theme of that collection.

Your graduate collection was purchased by BEAMS Japan. Why do you think that your clothes resonate with Japanese consumers so much?

BEAMS Japan was a really great first account to work with. Since then, the Japanese market has continued to grow. Every time I visited Japan over the last three years, I found it to be a great place to meet and see customers, to organise parties and events. I feel like there will always be a good connection between my work and Japan because it’s a market that is really interested in my brand’s philosophy. Most importantly, they understand and appreciate authenticity and the craftsmanship of my work.

After basing your recent collections on reggae and jazz, you’ve mentioned you’ll be looking into dub and post-punk for your next collection. What is so inspiring to you about the dub and post-punk era?

I see every collection as a continuation of my overall philosophy and work; they are all inter-connected.  I felt like there was something interesting in the reggae and punk crossover – something untold – and that’s what pushed my research even further.

That’s why I reached out to the legendary Dennis Bovell to collaborate on the AW19 show as he was, and always has been, a champion of playing around with different genres. You couldn’t really say what genre it was from – it was more about the feeling that united people and created a movement.

How do you decide what musical genre to focus on?

I don’t really decide, I just listen to my gut instinct. The decision comes from what feels natural to me, what speaks to me and what I want to explore further. As already mentioned, I see each collection as a continuation of my work, so the process is always natural and organic. In retrospect, Slygo and Red Clay were like side A and side B of an album, now I need to do the second album.

How does the chosen music genre feed into the design process?

We always have music playing in the studio which gets me into the right mind frame. This season in particular, I’ve been listening to a lot of current UK artists who are creating something different such as Puma Blue, Black Midi and DUDS. Classics by producers such as Lee Scratch Perry and Dennis Bovell have also been on rotation.

The AW19 collection was even named after Lee Scratch Perry’s famous studio in Jamaica, ‘Black Ark’. It was seen as one of the birthplaces of dub and electronic based music. He developed soundscapes which are used in all different genres nowadays: dub, house, post-punk; basically anything with a delay. It plays a very important role in music history.

What’s next for Nicholas Daley?

This year is going to be busier than ever. There are some upcoming collaborations which I will be able to talk about soon. Then, there’s the International Woolmark Prize Competition in February and I’m already working on my SS20 collection. Later in the year, I’ll be going back to Japan which is always a must on the yearly schedule!

All Nicholas Daley AW19 backstage images © Takahiro Ito and Mishael Phillip