S.S.Daley has quickly become one of the fashion industry’s most exciting young designers, with experience in the menswear design teams of Alexander McQueen and Tom Ford and two compelling collections of his own. Now, the Liverpudlian designer presents the ‘third act’ in the trilogy that started with his graduate collection, and it’s beautifully decadent.
Calling upon personal experiences and interests, Daley’s first solo catwalk showcase brings together worlds of British school culture and drama, through a series of staged vignettes devised by members of the National Youth Theatre. Their stories were incorporated into the collection to explore the structures of power and class in the frameworks of public and private schools. The show took place at the British Fashion Council x TikTok NEWGEN show space as part of #TikTokFashionMonth.
Daley continues to work mindfully with fabrics which are sourced within the UK and include specially woven clothes. Deadstock fabric is a staple, sometimes using upholstery material, while one-off pieces are upcycled from vintage material found in markets.
This focus on fabric feeds through the collection’s first vignette – a scene of daytime on the schoolground. This section features a bomber jacket made from red paisley deadstock and a fine cotton pyjama shirt printed from Daley’s nan’s wallpaper, among a range of flowing pleated trousers and shorts, asymmetric vests and a voluminous trench coat.
A recurring theme throughout Daley’s work is his love and interest in the regatta as a space where femininity and the hyper-masculinity of performance collide. So it makes sense that the second vignette is sports. High-waisted rugby shorts inspired by the vintage kit of a team from Leeds are presented alongside knitwear and fitted garments inspired by bathing suits.
The third vignette takes place in the dorm. Silk takes centre stage as a symbol of softness and comfort, cut into relaxed, pyjama-style pieces. A custom blue and gold paisley fabric was the result of close work with a traditional Yorkshire silk mill and is used for a short robe and matching pair of wide trousers.
The collection concludes with a sartorial procession. There are references to the uniform of Eton and rowing jackets, with high breakpoints and wide lapels. Suits are constructed from Daley’s striking paisley and a tailored Scottish woven wool.
The testimonies from the young members of the National Youth Theatre are at the heart of the showcase, bringing layers of emotional complexity to Daley’s work. Feelings of longing and hope come to the surface in this investigation into notions of masculinity.
It is an exploration of the theatricality of elitism, through the institution of the British school. Yet, S.S.Daley incorporates personal narratives to soften the blow of these powerful and radical themes to create bespoke garments that are soulful, romantic and compelling.