Published as part of her LOVE Magazine web takeover, Mandi Lennard caught up with East End designer Charlie Casely-Hayford to talk “hip hop, tailoring, his revered dad Joe, and why Casely-Hayford goes beyond trad bespoke”. An insightful look into the world of the talented young designer. Check out the interview below:
ML // Did you study?
CC-H // I apprenticed under my dad for several years. I’ve been surrounded by the family business since as long as I can remember. My parents met when they were 21 at Central Saint Martins and have been working together ever since in the fashion industry, so me and my sister basically grew up on a cutting table. It’s all I’ve ever really known.
ML // What proportion of the biz is seasonal collection vs made to measure?
CC-H // Sleeping has become a bit of a luxury recently in the run up to London Collection: Men, but I really like being hands on with the personal tailoring. I fit a lot of the clients myself and then my dad and I work together on every aspect of the design for the ready to wear. The two kind of compliment each other time wise.
ML // The word bespoke is bandied about far to often, particularly with British menswear, how do you yourself regard bespoke and what does it mean to you?
CC-H // Different people say different things. I think one of the main distinctions is that bespoke is created without the use of a pre-existing pattern and a certain level of handwork has to be used on the garment. We actively chose to offer a made-to-measure service because we wanted to present a vision that was attainable by someone my age and also my dad’s… Whether it be your first ever suit or the suit you wear on your wedding day, we wanted to create a product that could appeal to both worlds.
ML // What does the experience of creating made-to-measure mean to you personally; is it let’s say doing what you do in its purest form?
CC-H // Tailoring is the foundation of menswear. Every man, no matter what walk of life he’s from, needs a good suit in his wardrobe. It’s such an amazing experience having something made exclusively for you, knowing that you’ve chosen every single detail on that garment. I originally became interested in fashion because of the power of identity; a well cut suit can take on many different forms and guises, and stand for so many different things. I’m intrigued by the fact that one garment can be redefined again and again.
ML // What is the regular drill for someone coming to you for a suit?
CC-H // We have a space downstairs at East London menswear store Hostem. So I give each customer a personal consultation, try and understand their profession, their lifestyle, their character, their habits – all these things have a direct effect on the finished garment. I then take around 30 different measurements and like to talk the client through each process. We have around 2000/3000 fabrics hand picked from Italy and the UK, so understanding what each person is about helps me to narrow this down to a few options. Then comes the customisation – this is where you can really make the garment your own as we have about 40 different forms of customisation. It’s a really satisfying process from concept to finished garment.
ML // How many fittings do you tend to do for a client before final item and how long does it take?
CC-H // We try and get it first time round. It takes us around 5 weeks to make a suit from scratch. But usually we might need a second fitting to make a few adjustments.
ML // Funny how so many of us east hit the ground running with so much of our work, you do seem to get a lot of ‘I need it yesterday’ type requests; how do you tackle this given the painstaking nature of the work?
CC-H // We make suits for a lot of creatives – art directors, film directors, photographers, etc. Often they’re travelling around and aren’t in one place for very long. So we decided to create a 10-day service for the man with no time… turns out there are quite a few of them.
ML // Let’s touch on Hostem; how does it work and what pieces do you show in the store, and how does it then lead to you creating bespoke?
CC-H // James Brown, the owner of Hostem, wanted to create a space where a modern man could be dressed head to toe in pieces made exclusively for him in an environment that suited his needs. The bespoke room is a manifestation of his thoughts in that sense. Local London craftsmen have been hand picked by James to create this unique space that provides one of the best experiences around.
ML // Is Joe involved in the personal tailoring side of things or is it mainly the label; you do it together right?
CC-H // My dad has 30 years experience on me, so I’ve still got a little way to go. He keeps an eye on everything coming through the bespoke room. Anything with a Casely-Hayford label in it has had some involvement from both of us.
ML // I can’t imagine the depth of influence he’s had on you; he was a big influence on me and my sister, and so many of our male friends during the 80s, but what does it mean to be the son of such an iconic designer given that you have chosen a menswear path too?
CC-H // I’d say on average at least one person a day comes up to me and tells me how they blew all their student loan in the 80’s or 90’s on some Joe Casely-Hayford trousers or a JC-H jacket, so they could wear it out clubbing that weekend. He’s the most understated person I know, and very rarely talks about his past. So the only interaction I have with his earlier career is through other people’s stories or by reading old copies of i-D and The Face. Even though he was a forward thinker then, under his label Joe Casely-Hayford, he still looks for new ways to challenge himself now, and has used Casely-Hayford to create a new handwriting and a new statement. He’s not really interested in standing still.
ML // There’s nothing better than beautiful and classic menswear tailoring, but how would you define Casely-Hayford and how do you feel it’s relevant to now?
CC-H // A lot of men when they think about getting a tailored suit think about the stuffiness of Savile Row. We wanted to create the antidote to that – a clean, modern, streamlined version that was true to our vision and allowed men to be more experimental with the traditional boundaries of a suit.
ML // I love the American football campaign you did for this coming winter, how did that come about and do you enjoy being involved in the creative process for such imagery/themes, and how important is this to the business? Were you
involved in casting of it?
CC-H // Watching too many 90’s hip hop videos on YouTube with my dad and listening to too much Pharcyde and LL Cool J in the studio. We loved the oversized ice hockey and American football jerseys that a lot of these musicians were wearing – that was where the collection really began. My dad’s a massive music head, so whatever he’s listening too in the studio usually has quite a big effect on the collection for that season.
ML // What do you listen to when you’re burning the midnight oil?
CC-H // At the moment we’re listening to Lapalux as we finish up Spring/Summer 2014. Spring/Summer 2013 was a lot of 90’s rave/ Hacienda feeling, so the vibe has definitely mellowed out over the last year.
ML // And a quick snack?
CH-H // I’m 6ft 6″, so my idea of a snack is probably different to most. It’s more a fourth meal.
ML // Is a tie really essential?
CC-H // I wear a T-shirt, suit and a pair of 12-hole boots everyday, so I’m not really a tie man myself. We create suits for men who don’t need to wear suits… but choose to. There’s a real freedom in that choice. They wear Casely-Hayford suits in the way that they want to, without the constraints of convention or tradition.