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Casely-Hayford, SS16, LCM, Menswear
Backstage at Casely-Hayford SS16Photography Daisy Walker

Celebrating Britain’s diversity through fashion

‘This couldn't be reflective of anywhere else but London’ – how the city’s differing identities spurred father-son duo Casely-Hayford into action

After over 25 years, the Casely-Hayford father and son design duo, Joe and Charlie, have moved their design HQ from East to North London, and, as Charlie Casely-Hayford puts it to backstage, as a result they are designing "with a new pair of eyes." There are still the nods to both British tailoring and the anarchic street style of London's youth tribes in their latest collection, but for SS16 there's tartan layered outerwear, woven sandals, motocross jackets and Islamic-inspired layering; the Casely-Hayford man is not just the city he's from, but all the cultural elements that make and surround him. African, European, Columbian, Asian, this modern Londoner is not defined by a single influence but multiple cultures – cultures combined and distilled to create a new, richer visual language. Considering the Britain-first rhetoric that’s insidiously worked its way into much of popular politics, it was a refreshing mix that looked towards the reality of this country today – and celebrated it. 

This SS16 collection makes a bold statement regarding multiculturalism, the idea of the modern man being a collision of multiple origins... how did this idea originate? 

Charlie Casely-Hayford: We reference culture a lot, there wasn't a moment in which we decided to create a cultural element, it's always been a part of the dialogue. We're a family business, we treat every collection like a conversation between father and son, so it really was just us discussing culture, our ideas of it, and then us trying to communicate that on the runway, trying to communicate the thoughts we shared, but visually. That's why you get these disparate elements coming together, because it's two generations voicing how they feel about their environment. 

You seem to have a new, invigorated perspective on the city as a result of the recent studio move?

Charlie Casely-Hayford: I grew up in East London so I've been there for most of my life and there wasn't very much I hadn't seen. I feel like (the move) has opened my eyes to things – there's just really amazing pockets around us now, different communities with strong cultural identities, existing side-by-side. There's a huge Columbian community in North London, Hasidic jews, a strong Nigerian community, all mish-mashed together, its so exciting again. Street style inspires us, which is why there is this mix of formal wear and street, it’s how modern London dresses, not one or the other, but both. 

You fuse various African, European, Columbian and Asian influences in this collection, a collision of differing origins.

Charlie Casely-Hayford: I was having a conversation with someone who has a young kid in school and they were saying that nowadays it's normal for someone to speak three languages, your mum is from somewhere, your dad is from somewhere and then you have to speak English, and I just thought that's amazing. That's how the world is now. That's how the world is evolving. And that's how the clothing is evolving, to reflect that. If you're from two different worlds and you feel bound to both, your identity will present that in visual form and these disparate elements come together.

“In London, even in the richest area, you have an estate next door. It's unique in the way the cultures are mixed. It provides this amazing cultural understanding.” – Charlie Casely-Hayford

In some cases in this SS16 collection, it's like the different cultural elements have blurred together...

Charlie Casely-Hayford: Yes, it was about making the literal elements of the cultural references indeterminate, so even the ethnic prints, they can't be identified as just one particular culture, because we didn't want to specify where it's from. The prints are general, discreet so that the references are subtle. The idea is that you can see the reference, but the reference is not the focus and the reference is not too bold. This is so that everyone can then relate, because people are not now from just one place, they're from multiple places. We wanted to open it up and to make the references apply to all people, which is why we made the actual details subtle. The ideas are loud, but the specifics are not. 

Could you have created this collection anywhere other than London? 

Charlie Casely-Hayford: This couldn't be reflective of anywhere else but London. In New York, for example, everything is completely separate. In London, even in the richest area, you have an estate next door. It's unique in the way the cultures are mixed. It provides this amazing cultural understanding. From my experience you can't really get that anywhere else, and I think this is a city that is so accepting and open to all cultures and new cultures. This is obviously something that transcends fashion and is relevant beyond, such as politically. Multiculturalism is something very relevant today. Thats what the modern Londoner is – a sum of all these parts and a political being. It was all a discussion for us, politics, social changes, and we communicated it all through the clothing.