Ten’s To See: Nicholas Daley’s ‘Return to Slygo’ at NOW Gallery
Nicholas Daley has built his flouring menswear business on three pillars: community, culture and craftsmanship. Since launching his eponymous label in 2015, the Leceister-born designer has used fashion as a vehicle to explore his Jamaican-Scottish roots; harnessing a creative family of musicians, artists, and filmmakers which have made his immersive catwalks a must-see on the London Fashion Week calendar.
“If the Nicholas Daley brand finishes tomorrow, at least I can say, ‘Look, I’ve had such an amazing journey and worked with some amazing people,” explains the designer, as he talks me through his new solo show at Greenwich’s NOW Gallery: Return To Slygo. Yet it’s not a solo show, per se. Originally due to open last December, the multi-faceted exhibition is as much a celebration of his community of collaborators as his own personal journey.
From the catwalk imagery that aligns the walls – all by photographer Piczo, who has worked with the Daley since day dot – to the flags that bear the titles of bygone collections, Return to Slygo allows fans of the designer, and passersby who are unfamiliar with his work, to understand his world introspectively.
Photography by Piczo.
A focal point to the exhibition is Daley’s exploration into how craft is integral to cultural identity. Knitted History, one of two commissioned videos for the exhibition, sees the designer’s mother, Maureen Daley, explain the legacy of knitting and crocheting within the family and how Daley utilises these tropes in his work today. Taught how to knit by her grandmother – whose original knitting patterns are also on display – Maureen helped make knits for Daley’s debut collection and has overseen that part of the business ever since. Two colossal carpets made from old yarns and surplus t-shirts swamp the NOW Gallery’s floor, made up in Scotland which Maureen drove down to London herself. “She wouldn’t trust anyone else,” explains Daley. “Fedex? UPS? Hermes? Nope: Maureen Daley is on the case.”
Daley’s parents play a significant role, not only in the exhibition, but through the designer’s practice entirely. Return to Slygo borrows the name from his father’s sound system, which toured across Scotland from 1978 to 1982 as part of Maureen and Jeffrey Daley’s ‘Reggae Klub’ night; the first of its kind in Scotland. “As I’ve gotten older, I’m very appreciative of what my parents did for their community, for music, and obviously, for their sort of love of bringing people together,” says Daley. The pair speak on the club’s legacy in a mix curated by Daley’s partner Nabihah Iqbal, and Jeffrey’s original Return to Slygo t-shirt from the seventies – a design Daley replicated in his SS19 collection – hangs beside a pin bage-laden military jacket he wore to the parties, as well the records that summoned people to the Reggae Klub dancefloor.
Working with filmmaker Akinola Davies Jr on the exhibition’s centerpiece, Daley’s Return to Slygo film was shot in the family home of Courtney Mitchell – one of the designer’s ongoing collaborators – chosen for its seventies interiors. In a similar vein to Steve McQueen’s Lovers Rock, the designer wanted to explore the “Black British experience through the textiles, the food, the wallpaper and the sound,” bringing together jazz musicians Sons of Kemet and Nubya Garcia, reggae guitarist Dennis Bovell and T. S. Eliot Prize winner Roger Robinson.
“I’m always up for a challenge,” says Daley when I question if a future in curation is on the cards. “When you have spaces like NOW Gallery, that’s where you can start nurturing new ideas on lots of different topics: British identity, craft, culture, community – all these elements.
“What I’m trying to do with this exhibition, and my work, is to keep pulling back the layers and discovering new perspectives,” he continues. “But the main thing is mum and dad they are really happy with it all.”
Nicholas Daley’s ‘Return to Slygo’ is open till July 4 at NOW Gallery.