If you know nothing else about British menswear designer Nicholas Daley, know that he’s a master of juxtaposition. His breakthrough S/S 2015 collection was very literally titled Culture Clash, while A/W 2017’s Blackwatch was about as clear a visual representation as one could get of duality in the modern-day UK—a nation belonging neither solely to its pale-skinned and tartan-clad sons, nor to the immigrants who’ve made homes (and in certain cases, microcosmic communities) there over the last several decades, but to a chimeric mix of the two. From dashiki shapes to kilts to military-style berets and jackets, Daley’s designs have long reflected the nationalistic and diasporic tensions plainly present in the Brexit referendum—but in his latest, the jazz-inspired Red Clay, Daley has located a distinct peace that any consumer (no matter where they shop) can pull inspiration from.
This much is evident in Red Clay’s silhouettes, which bridge the generations and miles between hepcats and rudeboys—each in themselves the product of cultural and creative exchange. Daley, whose Scottish and Jamaican ancestry perhaps predisposed him to a love of punk, reggae and ska (the combination of which he’s played during presentations past; Don Letts is a muse of sorts, after all), has modernized the genres’ ocean-crossing aesthetic with oversized newsboy and pork pie hats by London institution Christys’, George Cox-made creepers, drop-shouldered trench coats and cropped cocoon trousers. But he’s also clearly drawn from the warm, leather-tinged coziness that a Blue Note LP conjures in the imagination, showing tobacco-colored shawl cardigans, professor-worthy elbow patches and formal pajama-esque sets that perhaps until now, only actual contemporaries of John Coltrane (a photo of whom reportedly inspired the collection) and Freddie Hubbard (whose 1970 album the release is named after) could rock—or, should we say, riff.
The world is chaotic and ripe for change, sure. But as Daley proves, softness and harmony are still worth seeking.