“You Need That One Person To Take A Chance On You” – Mr Nicholas Daley On His Start In Fashion
Collage by Mr Maxwell N Burnstein
Open to applications now, MR PORTER FUTURES is a global talent search and mentorship programme offering three aspiring designers the chance to create their own men’s collections – and debut them exclusively on MR PORTER. Helping the chosen designers to transform their ideas into finished collections will be a team of experienced industry mentors, many of whom have benefitted from industry mentorship programmes themselves.
One of those mentors is Mr Nicholas Daley, who received early career support from the Centre for Fashion Enterprise’s Fashion Pioneer Programme and the British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN programme. His first big break came before that when Beams, the Japanese department store, bought into his graduate collection. Daley, who draws on his Scottish and Jamaican heritage in his work, has since established himself as one of the UK’s most exciting young menswear designers.
At the launch of MR PORTER FUTURES and his announcement as a mentor, Daley sat down with us to talk about how he got his start in fashion, who helped him along the way, and what he’ll be looking for in a strong candidate.
On his first big break:
“I was a student straight out of [London fashion college] Saint Martins when International Beams Japan bought into my graduate collection. It was an anomaly; they don’t give that treatment to everyone. But when you’re getting started, you need that one person or institution who’s willing to take a chance on you. Beams were great. They put a lot of resources into endorsing the brand for the Japanese market, which really kept us going during those initial seasons. They hosted an event at the Harajuku store in Tokyo and provided additional support from their press team.”
On growing his brand while holding down another job:
“I was working as a freelance designer when Beams approached me, so for the first couple of seasons I was designing my own collections while also holding down other design projects. It was a hectic period, but I was straight out of uni and I thought it was better to be going full-throttle than twiddling my thumbs. And the experience I gained from working at an established brand helped me a lot when it came to setting up my own.”
On why he chose to become a MR PORTER FUTURES mentor:
“I guess why I’m always up for these things is to champion broader representation across the creative arts. I do feel at times that when I was studying, that it would have been great to have mentors who I could truly relate to on a cultural level, and who understood my point of view, or experience, as a young black business owner and designer. When you see someone in a position of seniority who you can relate to, it does fill you with confidence to think, ‘It doesn’t matter where I come from or what my ethnicity or religion is. I can still climb that ladder, I’ve still got a chance.’”
On why an anonymous application process is so important:
“Any good application process should consider how to be as diverse as possible, have the widest outreach possible, and have minimal bias. What you should be trying to achieve is a level playing field. That’s what everyone wants. Not a handout or a quota, just a fair system that allows the best people to rise to the top, regardless of age, gender or ethnicity.”
On the qualities he’ll be looking for in a candidate:
“Of course I’m looking for good ideas, but there are always good ideas out there. There’s always a new fabric, technique or process. A good plan of action is just as important. I want them to show me their vision for the future and how they’re going to use this opportunity as a springboard to bigger things. One thing I always say to students, or anyone who asks me how to break into the fashion industry, is that this is a marathon and not a sprint. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a learning process involving a lot of trial and error. Probably more error than anything else.”