For his SS20 Astro Black show, the NewGen designer finds inspiration in the Sun Ra Arkestra

In the spiritual surroundings of St Mary-at-Hill church, Nicholas Daley created an ‘Astro Black’ world that felt galaxies away from the divisive politics that are currently playing out on the exterior of those hallowed walls. His presentations are always fuelled by music so as Sons of Kemet’s Shabaka Hutchings walked his SS20 catwalk-cum-aisle playing his saxophone, it was clear that this was going to be a show destined to give goosebumps. Hutchings was followed by the rest of his band and a cast of modelling friends, such as filmmaker Akinola Davies Jr and vocalist Obongjayar, all wearing the designer’s easy-on pieces. Stand out were the string vests, cargo pants, wide jeans and loose waistcoats in shades of burnt orange, indigo, hot pink and olive, plus the odd psychedelic scarf.


Taking inspiration from the Sun Ra Arkestra – pivotal not only to changing the free jazz scene but to the black civil rights movement too – Daley masterfully wove the group’s afrofuturist spirit into these handsome garments. Championing that exchange of artistic ideas so important in jazz, he also worked with UK artist Gaurab Thakali on typography and Studio Tilly Mint on original prints. Continuing to highlight the UK’s craftsmanship, jacquards came courtesy of Vanners weavers in Sudbury, while the Baker Boy cap was created in collaboration with milliners Christys’ from denim and linen. He also created bespoke checks and pinstripe fabrics with Irish linen manufacturers Emblem weavers and further afield, worked on tye-dye with Japanese hand-dying specialists in Kyoto.


After the final model – poet Joshua Iden – walked, Sons of Kemet went on to perform a full set of their trademark anti-establishment, transcendent sound joined by the entire cast and by now dancing audience. Like everything this prodigious talent does, working with the band came from an organic place. “When they were nominated for the 2018 Mercury Prize I styled them,” explained Daley of the in-demand band who will be next seen at Glastonbury. “They’re a really talented group of guys and all of this just happened.”


Surely one of the only designers who can get London’s fashion set on their feet, and streamed on social media so that everyone could experience the show, Daley’s emphasis on multiculturalism and togetherness has never been more needed. “You forgot a collection but an experience can stay with you,” he says. “My ultimate objective in having someone at my shows is for them to leave with some sort of emotion.” Amen to that.


Read our full interview with Nicholas Daley in issue two of Nataal magazine, out soon.

Photography Nigel Pacquette, Fabrice Bourgelle, Piczo

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Published on 12/06/2019