Liverpool lad Steven Stokey-Daley hasn’t had the typical sort of year you’d expect of a fashion student who graduated in the middle of a pandemic. “It was a crazy period of time that all feels a bit like a haze,” he says over Zoom – reflecting back to October when Harry Styles wore an incredible six pieces from the designer’s graduate collection in his ‘Golden’ music video. After finishing his studies at the University of Westminster last summer, he moved back home to Liverpool to set up a direct-to-customer e-store. Within 10 minutes of the video dropping, every billowing trouser and crisp, white shirt was completely sold out.
Growing accustomed to having everything at his fingertips living in London, the move back home has made Daley more resourceful. “It’s pushed me to really consider localism and industry in the UK and in Liverpool as well,” he says, explaining that he’s been working with two seamstresses who once worked with his gran that have been out of a job.
Although Daley himself works sustainably – a lot of his shirts are one-offs and made from repurposed tea towels – he expresses the importance of designing efficiently beyond cloth. “Although none of us wanted Brexit at all, in light of it, like, how can we make the best of it?” he says. “There are so many skilful people in the country with no work, I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can provide and offer people opportunities for work in the local area.”
His AW21 offering serves as a second act to his graduate collection, looking once more to the power plays of private schoolboy culture. Being a working-class lad from Liverpool – where Daley was chastised for stepping out the door in “a shirt and trousers” – moving to London and walking past Harrow School on his way to uni each morning was a real eye-opener. “To see these boys who are institutionalised into wearing these straw hats and long tailcoats is all so fanciful and theatrical,” he explains. “That’s what they’re taught to believe what’s masculine and normal.”
The elitism that’s tied to private school camaraderie is met with a quiet queer narrative that underpins Daley’s practise entirely. Traditional private school silhouettes are exaggerated: trousers come swollen and adorned in Cecil Beaton-inspired florals or tied at the knee as if you were about to play a game of cricket; school shirts are stuffed under hand-crocheted sweater vests; oversized smocked shirts are made of green silk which was donated by Alexander McQueen.
Daley is able to carry the language of uniform through a queer lens, and does so with ease. Who would’ve thought a rower’s singlet could be sexy? Or that hand-knitted boater hats could be handsome in the year 2021? He describes the look as a private school posho who goes “to his parent’s house in the summer and dresses up in crazy floral looks,” working with silk weavers in Yorkshire and local artisans to bring his tender vision to life.
Photography by William Waterworth.