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Interview with Casely-Hayford

Menswear brand Casely-Hayford is one of the most exciting success stories to come out of London in the past five years. Formed in 2009 of father-son duo Joe Casely-Hayford OBE and Charlie Casely-Hayford, the brand seems to epitomise the energy and direction of modern menswear in the nation's capital. 

Walking a veritable tightrope between traditional tailoring and shapes, and discordant, subversive moods, each collection examines an element of classic menswear and seeks to reinterpret it in a way that somehow makes a statement that is still cool, yet irreverent.

For Spring Summer 2015's 'Art Intervention' collection, the name said it all. Graphic prints were juxtaposed with slightly oversized suits inspired by a 90's Jimmy Nail and classic pinstripes were deconstructed into quasi punk garments.

The entire collection played out like a conservation between two generations, and perhaps, that is exactly what it was. Joe and Charlie have previously described their design process as the "strongest man wins", but conversing with them, there is much more of a sense of harmony and understanding, that may be the reason why the varied influences seem so cohesive. 

MWS sat down with Joe and Charlie to find out a bit more about the design inspiration, styling recommendations and the best advice that thirty years in the fashion industry can afford. 

Innovation and reinvention seem to be at the heart of every collection, especially with the stand-out "Brench" (bomber-trench hybrid) of SS15. What's currently exciting you for AW15? A new design direction or fabric technology? 

"Thank you. Innovation and reinvention are at the core of our brand DNA. We are fascinated by the power of the cultural messages clothes can convey. This area provides a constant source of inspiration and excitement for us. Fabric technology has become one of the keys to our sartorial future. We are really fortunate producing a significant part of our collections in Japan. This gives us access to some groundbreaking fabrics and technology - also the idea of creating something new with an 80 year old craftsman is particularly appealing."

The bomber jacket has now become a staple piece for a man's wardrobe and is a prominent feature of your collections. What’s your advice to men when choosing the best one? 

"Today, wearing a bomber jacket is very much about proportion. It's important to understand the sizing and volume that work with your wardrobe, personal style and physique. At the cutting edge, an oversized bomber jacket can look very cool if you want to be at the forefront of the current trend. For a more elegant look, scale it down a little and make sure the shoulders, sleeves and waist fit well." 

The SS15 'Art Intervention' collection seemed like a reflection of the current dichotomies that exist in menswear, with iconic pieces (such as the Banker's classic pinstripe) being deconstructed and remade into streetwear. Why did you decide that this was an important statement to make? 

"Despite the sweeping movement of normcore in the fashion world, post-modernism is still prevalent within the arts. We use our collections to emulate what we feel is culturally relevant - we live in a time of multiple message, nothing is really singular anymore because of our infinite access to information, in large part due to the internet. That kind of post-modernism creates a discordant harmony and is the foundation for a new language that marries opposing forms - that's how I feel my generation wants to dress nowadays. We try and reflect this in our collection."

Charlie, how has your History of Art degree influenced the way you design? 

"Composition and form. I studied classicism at the Courtauld because I wanted to understand about different ideals of beauty. The connection to fashion didn't seem that distant to me in sense." 

What decade of fashion has had the most influence on your designs and why? 

"I can't say my personal influences directly correlate to one decade. Outside of music, my biggest influences come from British sub-cultures - namely the skinhead/punk movements but also a lot of the youth culture that came out of acid house in the 90s."  

Music seems to be absolutely pivotal to your designs. Do you find time to explore new music in London, what's the last band you've seen live and what's currently on repeat in the studio? 

"Music is very much at the core of the Casely-Hayford DNA. 'Twigs' and 'Years and Years' were the last artists I saw. We exchange a lot of YouTube videos between the two of us, usually in the early hours of the morning."  

Joe, as a veteran of the London Menswear industry and with 'London Collections: Men' gaining more momentum internationally, how has industry evolved in your eyes? Is this a good thing in your opinion? 

"Well it's taken literally decades for this dedicated London Men's Fashion Week to become an established fixture on the fashion calendar; I've lived through many failed attempts. Without a doubt, today the new generation of designers are more commercially minded and focused on making sound businesses. London has always been known for its irreverence, innovation and wit - it's important we hold on to these attributes. The new energy in menswear can only be a good thing. What can be better than seeing the next generation blossom."

With that in mind, what's your advice for young menswear designers starting out? 

"Work in fashion retail before beginning out on your own. It's important to have an insight into both sides of the business, to be a good designer you need to understand the consumer mind as well. Today the world is so small, when starting out it's important to have a global view, understand where your product sits in the market. Of course you must have a sound business plan but most important of all have something distinctive to say." 

What's next for Casely-Hayford? 

"We are working on a wearable tech product for next season - it's first time we have moved into this area."

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