RG Insights: Nicholas Daley

RG Insights: Nicholas Daley 

Something different is happening in fashion, and the man pushing that change forward is none other than Nicholas Daley. Meet the founder behind the label merging music with clothing, who between divided lines presents a complete vision of culture that carries a confident ease, not far from the laid back tempo of dub and reggae.

Leicester-born Nicholas Daley is driving his own narrative of identity. Born to a Scottish mother and Jamaican father, Daley came into the world (and design) with an understanding of multicultural representation that has him standing firmly with two feet on separate fields.

In 2013, Daley attended London Central Saint Martins to complete his BA in fashion design. His very first experience with organic growth would come as early as his senior year, when Beams Japan contacted him to buy pieces from his graduate collection, called ‘Culture Clash.’

The S/S 15 line was a celebration of past and present UK subcultures as seen through the lens of Dennis Morris, who famously captured The Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious and Bob Marley on film. Interest in this first collection would see Nicholas Daley following a beloved lineage of brands, who owe their earliest success to the fervent support of Japanese markets.

I believe I make clothes for people with a similar mind frame. I don’t just want to target one specific demographic – I want to appeal to open and like-minded people, who get my references and my story, and who appreciate British fabrics and craftsmanship.

But Daley is clearly no stranger to working beyond borders. We can thank him for recent collections that honour a shared past in Leicester’s West Indian diaspora — all sunbaked in the vibrant soundtrack of his childhood. An inherited tapestry of folk, dub and reggae forms a backdrop that Daley is moved to interpret. Historical markers are ever present in his clothing, with uniforms of jazz greats and the energy of 70s reggae clubs carefully sewn together to create one cohesive idea.

These ideas are clearly tailored for translation. For Daley, fashion is just a way for musicians to visually communicate in the absence of sound. Whether a person is able to sus out a particular meaning by listening to another person speak, sing or by looking at what they wear, the fine thread tying representation together is just as silent as it is invisible.

Music is an amazing way of expressing my ideas or my beliefs; music and fashion are so intertwined. One enforces the other.
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Stepping Razor

This season, Daley presents a lineup of kinetic pieces celebrating Karategi, the Japanese name for robe-style garments traditionally worn by Karate practitioners. SS21 also looks back at the influence of the late Peter Tosh, a solo reggae legend and former member of the Wailers alongside Bob Marley. Underneath the music, Tosh was an experienced Karate black-belt fighter with an obsession for Kung Fu culture, Bruce Lee and Jim Kelly films.

Using Tosh as his muse, Daley designed a series of flowy karategi gear inspired by the traditional habits of fighters, but with modern leanings. Familiar shapes point to a history in martial arts, but without the severity. An easy comfort from Daley’s own style follows every piece.

With music and dressing styles, the collection also looks to honour a 3 decade long history of Black excellence in elite martial arts competitions. Jordan Thomas, Britain’s first Olympic Karateka (Karate practitioner) wears pieces from the SS21 collection, and is set to represent England in the now postponed, Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Jordan is the son of William Thomas, who was also a former European and World Champion coming out of the UK.

The ‘Stepping Razor’ video shows Jordan in this season’s traditional gi, striking in sync with a nostalgic backdrop of 70s disco-soul. Carrying the old-school novelty of a vintage pressing, the collection is filled with references to Daley’s childhood.

His parents owned a reggae club in the 70s, and we see memories of that era etched in the details. It’s in the type, the soundtrack and definitely in the philosophical script laid over the video — a true homage to the harmonious coming together of two distinct cultures.

With many designers grasping at ephemeral threads, Daley is instead rooted in who he is. And because “making it look easy” comes after “making it well,” there’s still an attention to form and a few rules he continues to maintain — the main tenet being quality. Daley refuses to outsource his construction to just anyone. He only works with a handful of artisans who make traditional textiles in the United Kingdom and Japan. The dyes used to colour the Sashiko gi worn by Thomas are in no doubt from two original samples, made especially for the collection. The familiarity of traditional bespoke material pushes Daley toward another creative crossroads:

What is the right way to share West Indian and Scottish heritage through the gates of Leicester? Heard or seen, Daley’s blended approach points to an easy in-between narrative where no one sense is held above another.

You can find Nicholas Daley’s full SS21 collection, “Stepping Razor” available in-store and online now at Roden Gray..

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