An Exclusive Capsule From Nicholas Daley, The New Face Of British Design
Britain might be famed for afternoon tea and bright red pillar boxes, but its modern identity stems from a long habit of making outside influences its own. For dynamic young designer Mr Nicholas Daley, this very British sense of cultural amalgamation has always been part of his story. Born and raised in Leicestershire by a Jamaican-British father and Scottish mother, Daley cites his mixed ancestry as the source of his cosmopolitan outlook and says it shaped the ideals of his eponymous brand, a concept he refers to as “the three Cs”: community, craftsmanship and culture. “These three elements are the backbone to the Nicholas Daley world and we stay true to these core values with every collection and collaboration, through the fabrics we develop and the techniques and artisans involved,” he says.
As idealistic as this might sound, it’s more than a surface-level mantra. While colonialism and empire might be a thorny subject for many Brits, Daley has always chosen to celebrate the positive elements of cultural assimilation through his work. The dapper dandies of the Windrush generation and the shared textile crafts of Britain and India are just some of the influences, which, like the rich cultural tapestry of the British Isles, run as a common thread through the very fabric of his clothing.
For his winter 2015 collection, Dreader Than Dread, he drew on his father’s easy, yet rakish dress sense. AW17’s Blackwatch was an ode to his mother’s Scottish roots and for 2018’s Madras line, he delved into the V&A’s costume archive to pore over examples of plaid cloth dating back to 1855.
Since his debut collection was bought by Beams, the Tokyo department store and brand, East Asia has also been a rich mine of inspiration. At the beginning of the pandemic, Daley took up karate and whiled away the stagnant hours of lockdown perusing old images of Mr Bruce Lee and watching vintage martial arts documentaries such as Fighting Black Kings, which influenced his SS21 and AW21 collections.
The nobility of martial arts traditions and prowess of Japanese garment manufacture is evident in its karategi-like jackets and trousers and the collection’s accompanying film, Forgotten Fury, in which taekwondo champions Messrs Lutalo Muhammad and Christian McNeil do battle in Daley’s clothes.
This prolific creative output means Daley is in demand. To date, he’s had collaborations with Fred Perry and adidas, while a new venture with Mulberry is shortly to materialise. It’s also why he was chosen as a panel member for MR PORTER Futures, our mentorship programme to support undiscovered design talent. Now this culture-melding design wizard has created an exclusive capsule collection especially for MR PORTER, which unites the finest craft skills and fabrics from the British Isles, Europe and Asia.
Of the 13-piece line of outerwear, shirts, trousers, knitwear and accessories, the items that speak most of Daley’s commitment to the three Cs are the custom Japanese tie-dye hoodie and T-shirt, which sport the emblem of the reggae club night run by his mother and father in the late 1970s in Scotland.
“In a weird way, it’s sort of a family crest,” he says. “My parents ran The Reggae Klub from 1978 to 1982. My dad built the sound systems and my mum worked the door, as Dad would let anyone in.”
The bond between music and creativity is one Daley clearly inherited from his parents. His runway shows are always joyfully buzzy affairs. Models walk to the rhythmic beats of live jazz bands and musicians, including legendary DJ Mr Don Letts, take to the runway.
“In a weird way, it’s sort of a family crest. My parents ran The Reggae Klub from 1978 to 1982. My dad built the sound systems and my mum worked the door, as Dad would let anyone in”
The capsule’s lightweight cardigan and aloha shirt combine Yorkshire corduroy with a broken geometric silk-jacquard cloth woven especially for Daley by Vanners of Sudbury, a mill that can trace its origins to the Huguenot silk weavers of Spitalfields in east London. It’s a craft process emblematic of Daley’s knack for fluently blending contrasting elements, in this case the high-end and the utilitarian.
If you’re in the market for something a bit more substantial now autumn has arrived, the Japanese waffle-knit rollnecks, reminiscent of vintage submariner sweaters, are just the thing to offer a bit more heft without leaving you sweltering. The focus on function is evident. They have integrated pockets and sleeve thumbholes for that slouchy yet refined sense of comfort. The waxed-cotton six-pocket parka made at the Halley Stevensons mill in Dundee, a pioneer of waterproof fabrics, is also a practical and stylish option to tackle the meteorological shift.
Daley’s proclivity for sourcing the best fabrics from the UK, Europe and Japan ensures his pieces go the distance, but as part of an industry that thrives on the new, he’s mindful of his impact on the planet. The capsule’s hero piece and one of Daley’s favourites has been made from a deadstock tartan fabric milled in Selkirk, a town in the Scottish Borders with a notable pedigree in textile production, and a specialist in Scottish plaids.
“This beautiful check tweed was just sitting in a warehouse doing nothing,” says Daley. “It was a conscious choice to use it. You don’t need to overproduce to make something great.” The tie-dye scarves are made from surplus British army stock and dyed by a workshop in Manchester that uses only natural pigments.
The community that surrounds the brand, like the enduring fabrics used in its clothing, is a tightly woven one. Daley’s mother, Maureen, his self-styled head of knitwear, leads a gaggle of needle-wielding ladies based around the Midlands to handcraft his woolly accessories, including our capsule beanie, which is interwoven with jute fibres made by a Bangladeshi firm he has been working with since the brand’s inception.
To Daley, multiculturalism is a driving force of unity and it’s one that translates seamlessly into this capsule of creative richness. “I sort of see people of mixed ancestry as bridge makers,” he says. “We’re connected to different worlds and bridge them, whether that’s through food, music or style, and bring people together. For Bob Marley, it wasn’t about black or white. He felt he could speak to a global audience through his music.”
It’s a refreshing refrain in a world that seems increasingly divided – and one that is decidedly Daley.