V&A Dundee has recreated the studio of Nicholas Daley, one of the UK’s most exciting young fashion designers, in an exhibition exploring the creative processes behind his collections.
Studio Nicholas Daley, which opens Friday 6 September, offers a glimpse into the world of the Tottenham-based menswear designer who has recently collaborated with Fred Perry, Adidas and Woolmark.
The exhibition brings together the sights and sounds of his studio to help unpick the personal stories that have resulted in some of the most authentic and bold menswear collections in recent years.
Daley’s designs are grounded in a rigorous investigation into his Jamaican-Scottish identity, with his work heavily influenced by his Dundee and West Indian roots as well as music and revolutionary figures from history. The exhibition explores these themes and highlights how collaborations with UK manufacturers have helped inspire his collections.
As well as garments from his collections, the show includes photographs and items dating back to the 1970s when Daley’s parents ran The Reggae Klub, one of the first reggae club nights in Scotland. His mother Maureen, from Dundee, and father Jeffery, from Jamaica, first met in Dundee nightclub The Barracuda.
The patterns, mood-boards and books that can be found scattered throughout his London studio also feature in the exhibition, as does a playlist curated by DJ and broadcaster Errol Anderson of Touching Bass.
Daley, who grew up in Leicestershire, founded his label in 2015 after graduating from Central Saint Martins. Since 2018 he has presented his collections at London Fashion Week in affiliation with British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN programme for emergent designers.
For his graduate collection, Culture Clash Spring/Summer 2015, Daley looked to the landscape of Britain’s post-war subcultures and worked closely with musician and film-maker Don Letts. Subsequent campaigns have continued to be influenced by people and music, alongside a respect for traditional manufacturing techniques.
The generations of women in his family who worked in jute mills in Dundee helped inspire his Juteopolis Spring/Summer 2017 collection, which involved a collaboration with the city’s historic fabric mill Halley Stevensons.
His Blackwatch Autumn/Winter 2017 collection involved researching the complex global story of tartan and the life of George Rose, a Sergeant in the Black Watch regiment who was born a slave. A new kilt for the collection was developed in partnership with Glenisla Kilts of Lanarkshire.
Nicholas Daley said: “This exhibition for me is a celebration of my personal history, my family connections to Scotland and Dundee and of the manufactures based here. It reflects what happens in my studio and the processes I go through when researching and creating a new collection.
“Most of the women on my mother’s side worked in Dundee jute mills and on father’s side came over to London from Jamaica in the 1960s, bringing with them a certain style.
“My parents started a reggae club because they felt at that time in Scotland there wasn’t a space for that type of music. In a way, with my fashion shows and with this exhibition, I’m carrying on that family legacy.”
Mhairi Maxwell, V&A Dundee Project Curator, said: “It’s been thrilling to work with Nicholas on this exhibition and to capture the energy of his studio here in Dundee, a city that has had such a big impact on his work.
“Nicholas’s honest and playful re-working of tweeds, jutes and tartan express a creative response to identity, belonging and authenticity. These are topics of wide concern in international fashion today and are something that I hope everyone will connect with.”
Studio Nicholas Daley will be displayed in V&A Dundee’s Michelin Design Gallery, a free exhibition and project space in the upper hall of the museum, from 6 September 2019 until 7 February 2020. It has been curated by V&A Dundee Project Curator Mhairi Maxwell.
Exhibition highlights include:
- Garments from Daley’s Blackwatch, Juteopolis, Red Clay, Madras and Slygo collections
- A vintage original Reggae Klub t-shirt c.1978, designed and worn by Daley’s father, Jeffrey Daley
- A travel rug hand crocheted by Daley’s mother, Maureen Daley, 2019, from selvage Lochcarron Mill fabric
- An original notebook of poems and songs by Dundee mill worker and political activist Mary Brooksbank c.1935-1955, on loan from University of Dundee Archives
- A playlist curated by DJ and broadcaster Errol Anderson featuring tracks including: Cymande, Zion I (1973); Tropical Breeze, So Naive (1980) and Kofi, Black Pride (1989).
A two further pieces are on display from Daley’s Juteopolis and Madras collections in the museum’s Scottish Design Galleries.