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Mon, Nov 18, 2013
The Straits Times
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Fashion runs in the family
by Stacey Chia

As a child, Charlie Casely-Hayford spent more time playing in his father's studio than at home.

"I was always surrounded by samples and patterns. I would sit in a corner and play with my toys or even fabrics," says the 27-year-old Briton, whose father is veteran designer Joe Casely-Hayford.

Today, he is one half of menswear label Casely-Hayford, which he designs with his dad.

In the mid-1980s, his father, who is now 57, was just starting out as a designer for menswear and womenswear under his eponymous label.

He discontinued the label in 2005 and went on to head the creative team at Gieves & Hawkes, a tailoring house along Savile Row in London, until 2009.

"He's always worked crazy hours, which is why I spent so much time in the studio. My dad had warned me about fashion, but I grew up in that environment and really enjoyed watching what my father did," says the younger Casely-Hayford, an art history graduate from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.

Prior to that, he also spent a year doing a foundation programme in illustration at famed London design school Central Saint Martins. The school's alumni include fashion designers Stella McCartney, Mary Katrantzou and Christopher Kane.

As a teenager, Charlie would watch and help his father in the studio, where he picked up tailoring skills and knowledge about luxury fabrics.

Six years ago, he designed his first piece of clothing, a double-breasted light-grey cashmere jacket, with the help of his father. The jacket is still hanging in his closet.

In 2009, after years of discussion, the two decided to go into partnership.

"We've always talked about fashion. It seemed like a natural conclusion to come together and integrate our two different interpretations of the world to create a unique dynamic," he says.

"So far, I really enjoy working with my family," he adds.

His mother, Maria, 57, handles the business operations of the brand.

When asked why he wanted to do menswear, Charlie says he wanted a challenge.

"In menswear, it's so much about the detail and it's quite restrictive in what you can do. It's a creative challenge because your perimeters are much smaller," he says.

Aside from his day job as a designer, he writes an occasional style column for British newspaper The Telegraph. For his first column in September, he explored why every man needs his own "uniform".

In it, he says a signature look helps to leave a lasting impression.

As for his own signature look, the 1.98m-tall designer says he wears a suit with his pants tucked into 12-hole boots almost every day.

It is a look that he has sported since his father made him his first suit when he was 18 months old and matched it with boots.

"I think I also chewed on the boots," recalls Charlie, who grew up in East London.

The bachelor says his dress sense reflects English society - a mix of high culture and anarchy - which is also what the Casely-Hayford brand is about.

The brand is known for both its made-to-measure and ready-to-wear suits. Multi-label store Surrender (02-31 Raffles Hotel Arcade) carries only casual shirts from the label starting from $700. Salon by Surrender (B2-232 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands) carries shirts and suits. Prices for suits start from $1,450.

For their latest collection, the father-son duo mixed sportswear fabrics with traditional luxury English fabrics such as linen and wool. "We take elements from high society, but also from the punk and mod subcultures, and fuse them," says Charlie.

He adds: "We're not necessarily establishment, but we're not entirely anti-establishment."

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