Words by James Anderson
Photos by Olivia Rose
Styled with original pieces from Casely-Hayford’s archive

Charlie Casely-Hayford is one of the brightest design talents around. He has been rightfully hailed as a ‘brilliant Brit’ and as one of the UK’s best dressed men by GQ, not to mention i-D endorsing him among the 100 most important people in fashion.

High profile clients favouring his subtly-anarchic brand of British sartorialism – which fuses references to art and street style with fine tailoring, bold silhouettes and beautifully-considered fabrics - include David Beckham, Jamie XX, Mos Def, Lewis Hamilton, Tinie Tempah and Drake, among many others.  

The London-based designer spent his formative years accumulating a wealth of knowledge and techniques from his late-father, Joe Casely-Hayford, OBE, an influential designer whose work reverberated across the runways of Paris, London and Tokyo from the early-80s until his death in 2019. The Casely-Hayford label was originally founded by father and son in 2009 as a joint venture, and continues to flourish from its Marylebone HQ under Charlie’s discerning eye.

Charlie’s long-entrenched passion for clothing, music and subcultures, and a commitment to design integrity and longevity as opposed to fleeting trends, mirrors the values of Fred Perry. The new collaboration mutually explores these enthusiasms with a focus on inter-generational style, story-telling and memory, conveyed through reinterpretations of classic Fred Perry pieces, with adventurous tailoring, knitwear and embellishments. Here, Charlie tells us more about this exciting meeting of minds…

Fred Perry and Charlie Casely-Hayford seem like a perfect match for a collaboration. Not least as you each have a keen interest in subcultures of past and present…

It felt very natural, yes, and I’ve always been interested in British subcultures. My dad lived through most of them, so there was always an ongoing dialogue that we had between each other and it influenced a lot of the ways that we designed. I think Fred Perry is present in a number of different subcultures and is an integral part of what some of them stand for. So, it’s more than clothing in that sense and it really resonated with me on that level, I guess.

I assume you’ve worn Fred Perry pieces at one time or another?

Yeah, I’ve worn the polo shirts, definitely. My first ever job was working at Dover Street Market when I was 19 or 20 and Judy Blame [legendary stylist and jewellery designer] did a collaboration with Fred Perry around that time. I managed to get one of those amazing polos that Judy had customised with all this jewellery. So that was quite an interesting moment for me because it shifted my perception of the brand and added a whole other dynamic to my understanding of what Fred Perry is.

Can you talk us through some of your initial references and inspirations for this collection?

I like to understand the world in which the pieces are going to live in. So, creating a mood-board is an integral part of that. I started off by looking at the German photographer August Sander’s work. I was interested in this idea of reportage photography that captures culture and he seemed like one of the originators of that. I also looked at Rob Bremer’s photographs from Liverpool in the 80s - I liked their energy, it’s not too serious, just capturing real people. And more recent photographers, like Olivia Rose, with her series of photographs called ‘This is Grime’. She has also shot the campaign for this Fred Perry collaboration. All the pictures on the mood board felt very authentic to me, they came from something original. I think within fashion there is often so much self-awareness which can be quite destructive in removing that core factor that drives culture. So that authenticity was really the crux of what I was trying to achieve.

Were you very involved with the casting of the guys for the campaign shot by Olivia?

I was, yes. What we tried to do with the shoot was use guys that had a bit of a story, with a range of ages. We initially wanted to do it fully through street casting, but because of the lockdown and the timing of it we couldn’t do that. So, we did a little bit of a mix of people we found on Instagram or in real life, as well as models with an interesting background. The three young brothers are actually people that Olivia found and street cast, and they probably are my favourite shots. They are evocative of the feeling of the original mood-board.

How would you describe the core concept behind the collaboration?

I was interested in this idea of ‘lost and found’ and passing garments down from one generation to another. And I was interested in what the Japanese call ‘Wabi-sabi’, which means imperfect and things being slightly worn. So, on some of the shirts, for instance, all the buttons are different because we wanted to tell this story of the shirt that’s been passed down through the generations and all the buttons being replaced again and again.

That’s a lovely narrative detail…

It’s this idea of memory and clothing retaining memory. As it’s being passed down through the generations, it’s more than just a product, it’s about what it meant to a generation who came before. I’m really interested in the energy of a garment shifting, depending on its wearer. Also, in Japan they have these quilts called ‘Boro’, made from scraps of fabric that are sewn together and they are built up from generation to generation. When a new born baby comes they are wrapped in the quilt and the idea is that you are wrapped in the memory of previous generations. The collection was loosely based on the idea of that transition, something a bit deeper than clothing itself.

You are known for your expert command of tailoring, which you have brought to this collaboration, but there are also some great knitwear pieces…

We did actually delve into my old man’s archives and one of the knits is very closely based on an old Joe Casely-Hayford piece, but now realised through the Fred Perry lens. For other knit pieces we also delved into the Fred Perry archives and updated something that we found – a piece that was a few decades old - so we continued that story of making something new from something old.

The idea of passing garments down through the generations feels very appropriate for now, as consumers are becoming increasingly focused on a slower, more ethical approach to fashion…

I really wanted to hit home that message, of the foundation of the collaboration. I hope it adds value to the garments, so maybe people will look after them longer and cherish them.

Are you pleased with how this collaboration turned out, Charlie?

I feel really great about it! And it was nice to be able to cultivate all these ideas before we knew the lockdown was going to happen. It feels very authentic to my belief system and how I’d like to move forward as a designer.