Nicholas Daley’s has always had a feeling of lightly celebrating work — especially his typically hilarious fashion shows, where musicians might walk down the runway while playing their instruments — but this season he has a particular reason to feel festive. Last month, Daly married his longtime partner, musician and DJ Nabihah Iqbal, in a ceremony that paid tribute to their respective cultures and those of their guests. (With the theme of “Back to the Roots”, the guests appeared in traditional costumes appropriate to their cultural background, from Sierra Leonean kpokpo cloth to Japanese kimonos to Swedish reindeer leather pants.)
Entitled Calypso, the series is a London creation of an ode to time-honored Trinidadian musical traditions and an ode to Daly’s sprawling community. Not coincidentally, the shoot also took place after Notting Hill Carnival, London’s annual celebration of British Caribbean culture, with Calypso’s steel drums serving as a reliable soundtrack to various street parades. The look book covers an eclectic lineup of talents from yogis and poets to filmmakers and musicians; loosely inspired by Irving Penn’s Small Trades series, each theme is accompanied by a tribute to their livelihood props. (Daley even managed to include the legendary Trinidadian steel pot player Fimber Bravo, who happened to be in town for the carnival.)
Some styling book stars also work directly with Daly on accessories. Harris Elliott of Le Tings has created a clever set of oversized tote bags that are upcycled from Ghanaian rice bags. British Jamaican hatter Uptown Yardie makes a series of hand-painted hats with high domes. The colorful sunglasses were made by DJ and record label owner Bradley Zero. Finally, the graphics on the T-shirts and jerseys were provided by artists Olana Janfa and Kione Grandison.
Daley’s reference to the heady cocktail is wide-ranging; its origin is a sheet from of the iconic singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte The photo was signed for Daly’s grandmother and is one of her most prized possessions. Daly himself witnessed Belafonte’s speech at the Southbank Centre a few years ago, and his lasting memory of it is Belafonte’s musings on balancing being an artist and an activist. “It made me think about ancestry and lineage and really explore this little corner of Jamaica where my family comes from,” said the designer.
As always, the way in which Daley translates this emotion into clothing belies his important themes, balancing his investigation of Caribbean diaspora culture with the very great clothing. Inky abstract florals; custom silk jacquards; and breathtakingly intricate Japanese embroidery, the energy of the collection is infectious. These are impeccably crafted, well thought out pieces that you want to see, touch, and most importantly, try on. “It’s definitely been a happy series,” Daly said. “I’m playing and really having fun.” His oft-repeated three-pronged mantra is to embrace community, craftsmanship and culture, and this upbeat, endlessly captivating series does exactly that.