Born: Ghana, 24 May 1956. Education: Trained at Tailor and Cutter Academy, London, 1974-75, St. Martin's School of Art, 1975-79, graduated 1979; studied history of art at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 1979-80. Family: Married Maria Casely-Hayford, 1 August 1980. Career: Worked on Saville Row, pre-1974; designed stage outfits for rock groups and stars, including Mica Paris, Tori Amos, Neneh Cherry, Liam Gallagher, Suede, Lou Reed, and U2, from 1984; created own company, Joe Casely-Hayford Fashion, 1984; designs appeared in Derek Jarman's film Edward II, 1991;
"Bovril Babes," in Face (London), June 1992.
"Year Review of Fashion," in i-D (London), January 1993.
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Designers," in Juliet Ash and Elizabeth Wilson (eds.), Chic Thrills, A Fashion Reader, Berkeley, CA, 1993.
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Sims, Josh, "Cape Crusaders," in the Guardian (London), 3 November 2000.
The traditional design tenets of quality fabric, attention to detail, and excellent cut underpin all of Joe Casely-Hayford's work. This is not to deny the surprise of his designs, which often have unusual details of decoration or spicy color combinations to enliven them. His clothes are for the discerning customer who wants styles to retain their appeal for more than one season. The clothes are always very contemporary in feel, though rarely following fashion fads. Although he returns to his skillful pleating and cutting of traditional wool fabrics for classic suits each season, his influences are wide ranging. He can just as stylishly redefine 1970s wide collar coats as create American Indian-style soft leather jackets.
His menswear is perhaps his perennial tour de force. Always interesting and innovative, his collections are a combination of highly desirable good quality with witty detailing. His clean-cut wool suits are given a stylish twist through pleating or cut-out lapels with curling velvet inserts, making them more individual. His designs may reveal a certain amount of anarchic license in their cut, but he is never cultish or unwearable, carefully balancing the elements in his work with his original vision to make clothes with a long life span. Even his more experimental garments, like the all-in-one suit he created in the late 1980s that looked like a two-piece from the front but had a battle-dress back, still have a beauty in their fit and the refined finish that distinguishes all his work.
Casely-Hayford, like Stephen Burrows and Ozwald Boateng, was one of the few early black designers to attain prominence in the international fashion world, and he passes his knowledge along to the next generation; one of his protégés is Walé Adeyemi. Having arrived on the wave of the exciting new art school-trained British designers that included John Richmond and John Galliano, he has also remained dedicated to increasing Britain's fashion standing on the international market. To that end, he is active in teaching future designers, lending his time and expertise to programs like the Marymount London Fashion Program, which teaches students and gives them the opportunity to intern with working designers and get hands-on experience.
Although he is part of the 5th Circle, set up in August 1991 to showcase the menswear of five homegrown designers, he is equally committed to his womenswear collection. It has the same strength of cut and clarity of design, often initiating ideas that are later taken up by others. Examples are the bra tops of his early shows that were later to flood the market; the hot-colored patchwork suede wide collar jackets, long coats, and hot pants he used that heralded the 1970s revival of the early 1990s; and the beehive hairdos he brought back in his fall 2001 show.
His clothes for women have a sexy feel, with sculpted leather waistcoats and neatly fitted suits alongside funky knitwear and simple yet sophisticated dresses, each with the usual Casely-Hayford twist marking out their design. His designs are complemented by the seasonal addition of interesting and unusual footwear created for Shelly's, the London shoe chain.
Beginning in about 1984, Casely-Hayford entered the music world, dressing such stars as Tori Amos, Black Uhuru, Neneh Cherry, The Clash, Liam Gallagher, Glamma Kid, Lynden David Hall, Mica Paris, Lou Reed, Suede, and U2 (including their two-year world tour in 1991-93), and enjoying a popularity rivaled only by Gianni and Donatella Versace. He also served as a costume designer on Derek Jarman's film Edward II (1991).
Casely-Hayford has quietly built a niche for himself in British fashion as a master of cut, and his work has also just as quietly gained an international following, especially in Japan, where his work is very popular. His clothes have the appeal of longevity while at the same time maintaining style and well-balanced beauty through the combination of each element of design, providing carefully thought-out garments that flatter the wearer with their witty detail and consistently good fit.
He has remained very active, showing collections regularly from 1998 to 2001, not only in London but from Paris to Milan and from Rome to New York. His collections in 2000-01 featured an eclectic riot of colors and fabrics, from orange and green to white and black, from solid to tie-dye, from leather to tweed, from tulle to suede, from fake fur to wool. Described alternatingly as conservative, cutting edge, bold, and subliminal, Casely-Hayford's designs, while remaining experimental, are still very wearable.
updated by Daryl F.Mallett