remembering beloved london designer joe casely-hayford
1956 — 2019.
Photography Ben Weller
It is with great sadness that we learn Joe Casely-Hayford, a beloved friend and collaborator of i-D since the 1980s, has passed away after a three-year battle with cancer, at the age of 62.
Joe’s namesake brand, Casely-Hayford, launched in 1984, at the heart of the streetstyle revolution taking place in London. Training on Savile Row, then the Tailor and Cutter Academy, and finally Central Saint Martins, Joe blended detailed tailoring with a street-friendly edge, and instantly won plaudits from the biggest designers, stylists and magazines of the 80s. When the first man appeared on the cover of British Vogue -- Bono, in 1992 -- he wore Casely-Hayford. In 2007, Joe was awarded an OBE for services to the fashion industry.
In 2009, the brand was relaunched with the help of his son Charlie. It went on to become one of the capital’s most internationally-recognised and adored features on the menswear schedule, and last year launched its first ever standalone store on Chiltern Street.
"We didn’t see each other often but there always seemed this understanding between us as parents -- both with two growing teenagers within a close knit, but always slightly kooky, fashion family -- of similarities and shared values," says i-D original mum Tricia Jones. "I remember loving Joe's contribution to the Family Future Positive project [a special issue of i-D which celebrated family in its broadest sense] and feeling very honoured when I saw mine and Terry's name included amongst all the others. There is a special energy about their family which you could always feel."
In light of his sad passing, below is an interview with Joe and introduction by James Anderson, taken from Fashion Now 2, the second of i-D’s two-part book series celebrating its favourite designers from around the world, published in 2005.
Joe Casely-Hayford has remained true to the aims he established at the outset of his career thirty years ago — to create clothing that simultaneously subverts tradition, yet is always infused with principles of sound craftsmanship. His signature — classic English fabrics and ingenious darting, pleating and layering — might be defined as deconstructed tailoring. Born in Kent in 1956, Casely-Hayford commenced his design journey in 1974, first by training in London’s Savile Row, then attending the Tailor and Cutter Academy. In 1975 he enrolled at Central Saint Martins, graduating in 1979, followed by a one-year history of art course at London's Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA). His design for men and women combines this knowledge of fashion, tailoring, art and social history with an appreciation of youth culture. Although it was not until 1991 that Casely-Hayford made his London Fashion Week debut, he had already enjoyed considerable related success — working as a styling consultant for Island Records, creating clothing for The Clash in 1984, and being nominated for the Designer of The Year Award in 1989. Throughout the 90s his reputation was further enhanced when he dressed the likes of Lou Reed, Bobby Gillespie, Suede and U2. Casely-Hayford was also one of the first designers to co-operate with high street fashion chains such as Topshop, for whom he designed a sell-out womenswear range in 1993. His work has consistently ventured beyond the catwalk to be featured in prestigious exhibitions such as the Rock Style show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1999 and the V&A’s Black British Style in 2004. Casely-Hayford has also written a number of articles on fashion and associated social issues for i-D, True and Arena Homme Plus.
What are your signature designs? Deconstructed tailoring has been a recurring theme. What is your favourite piece from any of your collections? My favourite piece is always from my current collection. I have been working on a Black Rock – Afro Punk theme. I love the slim brightly coloured button jeans worn with a JCH wax print hoodie. How would you describe your work? Multi-layered – metaphorically speaking. What's your ultimate goal? I am living my ultimate goal by enjoying a career based on original design ethics – to create clothes without boundaries. What inspires you? The madness and sanity of London, the Future. I am interested in the explosion caused when disparate cultural fragments collide. Can fashion still have a political ambition? The only thing we can accurately predict in fashion is change. Things have become so apolitical and commercially driven, I would say that a new, more politically inspired agenda is a distinct possibility. Who do you have in mind when you design? Through the effects of globalisation, much of today’s fashion is homogenised and lacks personal identity. Too many draw from the same reference points, and as a result, the human element and craftsmanship are in decline. Now is the time to reclaim your identity. Is the idea of creative collaboration important to you? Yes, only when it’s real, not just for association Who has been the greatest influence on your career? My wife, Maria has influenced every aspect of my work. How have your own experiences affected your work as a designer? Very much, I am a black man, living and working in London and my work reflects this. Which is more important in your work: the process or the product? If an idea is developed through a solid creative process, aesthetically, ethically and fulfils its function, the end product is likely to reflect this – which is why I believe the process and the product are of equal value. Is designing difficult for you, if so, what drives you to continue? Designing isn’t difficult for me but some seasons flow more easily than others. This is because fashion doesn’t evolve in neat six monthly cycles. Have you ever been influenced or moved by the reaction to your designs? There have been times when I have seen my designs in other people’s collections. What's your definition of beauty? Truth. Purity. What's your philosophy? Truth and integrity. What is the most important lesson you've learned? That logic or reason in this industry is down to coincidence.