Monday, 3 September 2012

Exploring Joe Casely-Hayford's archive


Since the house's inception, Casely-Hayford have forged an eloquent handwriting of modern English style that has left the pulse of this blogger's eyes racing. The father and son design duo have carefully crafted a signature style of relaxed masculine proportions and exquisite tailoring, whilst fusing it with an injection of the raw energy of London's dynamic under belly that constantly inspires them both. The father/son design dynamic has created the perfect environment in which an intriguing interaction between old and new, traditionalism and radicalism, experience and fresh perspective. The pair draw on one another and ultimately push the House forward. It is an ever intriguing house that encourages change whilst being grounded in tradition. With each season, they explore, play and experiment with the duality of English Sartorialism and British Anarchy like no other label could. With each season, the desire to own a Casely-Hayford dominated wardrobe grows. Whilst looking longingly at each collection, my curiosity to learn more about the pair only intensifies as I'm particularly drawn to Joe Casely-Hayford's quiet yet significant impact on London menswear.

It should not be forgotten that Joe brings decades of design experience to the house of Casely-Hayford. During the exciting and turbulent time of the mid eighties, Joe Casely-Hayford pushed the boundaries of intelligent design and menswear as runway presentations were received and applauded in London, Paris and Tokyo. He's also crafted costumes for the likes of U2 and the Clash, was the first designer to be approached to create ranges exclusively for Topshop, served as Creative Director of Savile Row' mainstay Gieves & Hawkes, was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen for his services to the fashion industry and recently included in i-D magazines list of Fashion Heroes during last Fashion week. Despite preferring to lurk in the sartorial showers himself, his eponymous label was constantly covered in publications like i-D, Dazed, Arena and The Face whist being sold to key stores globally. So, when Charlie mentioned his father's archive my pulse quickened and I jumped at the opportunity to explore it. Much of the archive has its roots in a very different time both in terms of the capital and menswear.

Below, the man himself provides the narrative as he discusses his experiences during this time, the formulation the label and his own evolution but first, I'd like to share a selection of rare press clippings and catwalk images. From Bros to breathing fresh life in to the tired body of Savile Row, here's a visual taster of Joe's impressively diverse career...

i-D MAY 1986
An early Joe Casely-Hayford ad campaign by Harrods in 1988.

Bros in the Sunday Mirror magazine in 1989

i-D COVER 1992
A feature in i-D from 1992
An editorial feature in The Face from 1994 

Two catwalk looks from Joe Casely-Hayford AW1998

Three catwalk walks from Joe's time at Gieves & Hawkes (the first from AW06 and two from SS07) 

"When I started the Joe Casely-Hayford label in the early 80s the original youth cults still influenced society in a powerful way and I was totally fascinated by the impact they made on the changing face of British society," explains Joe as we reflect on the origins of his eponymous label. As Casely-Hayford cut his teeth and cloth alike on Savile Row, Margaret Thatcher was doing her best at alienating the working classes and a by product of this tension was a creative surge. The seasoned designer adds, "I had just finished at St Martins and was keen to make a statement which was more about the style and energy from the streets than the formality of the catwalks. Ready-to-wear designer fashion was a relatively new concept. I had a strong social conscience and wanted to convey this through clothing" Fascinated by the power of social uniforms, he celebrated the cult of the individual whilst crating clothes that questioned social conventions.

"I remember I knew this strange woman who had a warehouse in S.E.1 full of second world tents and parachutes. I decided that by using these tents I would be giving this amazing fabric a second lease of life; recycling. I began making jackets trousers and tops from these tents. Because some were heavily used I would have the finished garments industrially washed. The pieces I made became very popular.

I was living close to Trish and Terry Jones who had just started a magazine called i-D which they put into the local newsagent in West Hampstead. I bought the first issue; it was raw and featured people like me. They soon started to shoot my clothes and things gradually took off. I was approached by Bernie Rhodes manager of the Clash to design their stage clothes. For the interview I didn’t have my own studio so I borrowed my mate’s space and stuck my drawings and press cuttings from i-D on the walls. I got the gig!

I started the company on my own and sold internationally and grew my business in an organic way that you couldn’t do today. My wife, who I met at Saint Martins, joined me soon after and we have worked together ever since.

At that time designers wanted to break down many social barriers and making a strong anti establishment visual statement was part of this act. I designed and sold well, shirts with four sleeves, tailored jackets with gaping seams, trousers with a front and back fly. In terms of deconstruction if it could be imagined I tried it. I made shirts from bed sheeting, coats and knitwear from paper, lilac neoprene suits, hand carved shoes; and sandals from elastic bands it was fun.

I feel extremely fortunate to have made a successful living from designing in such a way. This would not be possible today. Because I’ve been pretty low profile throughout my career, one of the best feelings I have today is when I meet people who tell me about the pleasure they derived from wearing pieces from my collections. As a designer it can be quite easy to get locked into your own little world so of course the acknowledgement of one’s past work is great. It was amazing to be named one of i-D magazines heroes during last Fashion week. Looking back I would say I have broken a lot of ground in a quiet sort of way."

Despite his practically unrivalled achievements, Joe Casely-Hayford is not one to linger in the past. He is constantly looking forward and striving to continuously innovate. In fact, it is Charlie who is the keener design partner to look through the archive as a resource. "Charlie always says there’s enough stuff in there for us to not have to design again but I always want to move forward into uncharted territory," adds Joe. That said, the pair have successfully reintroduced a number of pieces from Joe's back catalogue of designs. Despite the two labels capturing a different feeling and aimed at outfitting a different man, I was particularly interested to see how certain details - from the cut of some jackets to the reverse collars) have followed on from Joe Casely-Hayford through in to Casely-Hayford. Here, the designer himself explains the evolution...

"The archive is vast and covers an array of ideas. In terms of tailoring shapes, I guess after so many years I have developed a signature style which takes elements from my training at The Tailor and Cutter Academy, Douglas Hayward and my time as creative director of Gieves & Hawkes in Savile RowThe double fronted shirts or reverse collars were my first big hit in 1984 we couldn’t make them fast enough. When Charlie first delved into my archive they were the first pieces he saw he immediately asked me to reintroduce them. We did a button through version of the reverse collar which came as two interchangeable halves and less well known was the half placket version which you can see here. The name label was like an old school name label. I followed this style with the off the shoulder shirt made from heavy bed sheeting woven by an old Manchester mill called Partington..."


 "The Joe Casely-Hayford collection was designed for men and women. I focused on deconstruction and what was called ‘anti fashion’. This jacket designed in 1987 is actually the women’s version of one I designed for men and women. It has in inset waistcoat section which was cut quite high to work with some narrow high waisted trousers. The photograph of Andre Walker shared below (one of the greatest modern day designers) was taken for the 1980s cult magazine VANITY. Andre is wearing a patchwork shirt and the highwaisted trousers I refer to above. Andre went on to work with Marc Jacobs."


"We have always used a lot of trompe l’oeil techniques. This cable print cardigan was designed in A/W 1995. I designed them for men and women. The collection was a spoof on Sloane Ranger style. It was quite funny when Princess Diana turned up to our show - it was her first ever catwalk show. Sadly the press were more interested in her than my collection. They went crazy!!"


"This Mac is made from coated refuse bag paper it has a deep centre back pleat and was designed in 1999."


"The Artist Chris Ofili approached me to collaborate with him on a limited edition T shirt for his show in 2002. I designed the imagery using motifs from his paintings."


The above is a mere snapshot at Joe Casely-Hayford's vast archive. His twenty year career has been nothing short of remarkable and it's inspiring to watch him continue to strive forward. Throughout, he has pushed menswear forward by combining his formal training with his intriguing and unquenchable thirst to create something new and original. From the deconstructed tailoring of the 80s (three dimensional lapels and exposed seams) to over sized knitwear and the fusion between sportswear and tailoring in the 90s and beyond, he has never been one to rest on his design laurels. Today, the duality of the house of Casely-Hayford reflects Joe's varied design history and  continues to feed his excitement to design and innovate whilst outfitting a twenty first century gentleman.  


Izzy said...

Great post. Some of this reminds me of old Yohji, with a crafty twist.

Syed said...

Thank you, thank you, awesome post!

Anonymous said...

I had a Joe Casely-Hayford white cotton shirt bought on the Kings Road '81 or '82. The point of the collar was really long on one side. Don't suppose you have any images of this?? It was SO cool. Thanks Jane

Leopold Stotch said...

Awesome post, brings back a lot of memories.
The Face was probably one of the best magazines ever.
It was my 'internet' as a bored suburban US teen looking for escapism and new ideas.
Up until a couple of years ago I had every issue (though only started picking it up around 84'), lost about 3/4 of it due to a flood.
Anyway I remember a lot of those ads, spreads and covers.
Thanks again!


Related Posts with Thumbnails