Groundbreaking designer Joe Casely-Hayford dies age 62

Fashion guru who came to prominence in the late 70s, whose outfits adorned stars from Lou Reed to Bono

The fashion designer Joe Casely-Hayford has died aged 62.

Casely-Hayford, who had had cancer for three years, was considered to be one of the great British designers of his generation. He became well known and highly sought after in the late 70s for his bespoke tailoring, which he deconstructed to give a streetwear sensibility.

A graduate of St Martin’s School of Art and the Tailor and Cutter Academy, he received formal Savile Row training before establishing his eponymous fashion house in 1984 alongside his wife, Maria. It quickly gained cult status on the international fashion scene, becoming popular with many young designers, stylists and journalists, who often used their first pay packets to buy an item.

“He was the first London designer to bring the cultural mix and energy of the East End together with the amazing skills of a Savile Row tailor,” said the fashion critic Sarah Mower.

Casely-Hayford “could be subversive, but his work was always grounded in sartorial excellence”, said his friend, Mark C O’Flaherty, as he announced the news on Thursday. “He created suits for prime ministers and rock stars, from Lou Reed to the Clash. When Bono was the first man to appear on the cover of British Vogue, in 1992, it was wearing Joe Casely-Hayford.” His popularity and influence endured throughout the 90s, and Princess Diana took a front-row seat at his 1995 show.

In 2005, he was appointed creative director of Gieves and Hawkes, a position he held for three years, during which time he was awarded an OBE. In 2009, he relaunched his business as Casely-Hayford in collaboration with his son, Charlie, 32. Together, the pair re-established the brand’s avant-garde aesthetic to appeal to a new generation, and enjoyed huge commercial success – including a collaboration with Topshop – as well as critical acclaim. In November, they hosted the opening of the brand’s first standalone shop on Chiltern Street in London.

Male model in nice clothes
A design from the Casely-Hayford fashion show for autumn/winter 2017. Photograph: WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

Casely-Hayford “was grounded in being classless and cosmopolitan – he fashioned an ongoing document of the London in which he grew up and worked. At the same time, he was one of the few black designers to rise to a position of global prominence,” said O’Flaherty.

The fashion journalist Luke Leitchsaid Casely-Hayford had once told him: “As a black kid in Britain, I was on the outside looking in, initially. So I remember being chased down the King’s Road by rockers – and then a few years later, I was being chased up it again, but by skinheads. But I’ve always been fascinated by English society.”

The designer leaves behind a large and prominent family. His second child, Alice, 29, is digital editor of British Vogue. His sister Margaret is chair of the board of Shakespeare’s Globe; his brother Peter is the producer-owner of the film company Twenty Twenty; and his other brother, Dr Gus Casely-Hayford OBE, is the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art.

“Joe was a lovely man as well as a consistently inventive designer,” said Dylan Jones, the editor-in-chief of GQ. “He was one of the mainstays of the industry in the 80s, and was an inspiration to a whole generation of young designers. His name was also one of the first British brands to gain genuine global recognition. He will be greatly missed.”


Scarlett Conlon

The GuardianTramp

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