“I’m separating the class”: Steven Stokey-Daley on being a gentle anarchist

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As the designer hosts his first London Fashion Week show, the Liverpudlian discusses the abandonment of the theater, the upper class of the camp and the clothing Harry Styles

Steven stokey daley was 14 when he found himself in the middle of a gym posing as a color. Having taken the train from Liverpool, it was his first time alone in London, choosing to spend the summer in the company of a hundred strangers while transforming into furniture, animals and a whole different person. “The drama was my life back then. But after this summer with the National Youth Theater, I never did anything with it again. It was really sad, ”he says, fumbling for a stool in his cramped East London studio.

As the creator sits down, he is surrounded by the tears of Princess Diana, Kate Bush, and old Atonian schoolchildren. Three interns work in absolute silence while a PR types on his Macbook, keeping a small rack of clothing confidential. But despite all the fanfare, Stokey-Daley was “never interested in fashion.” He never looked at cult magazines or worshiped at the altar of Vogue. The closest he could have practiced his trade was wearing a pair of brown corduroys to high school. “I feel the pressure to say that I did all of this, but come on, this is bullshit,” he said. And while he’s now skillfully preparing his third collection, which debuts today, there was a point where his life was about to stray from its course. “Actually, I was to study English Literature and Drama Studies at Warwick. Like, we packed the car and everything. Then, the day before I left, I had this sudden feeling and changed my mind. I’m all about those gut feelings.

An art foundation and a fashion degree later, Stokey-Daley quickly became one of the brightest young designers in the industry. Today’s collection, which he calls his ‘third act,’ brings these two seemingly disparate worlds together, featuring SS22 through a series of staged vignettes, designed by ten NYT members aged 18-24. years. The performance – a violent Lord of Flies procession through high birth chaos – refines Stokey-Daley’s ultra-fine deciphering of public school culture, having been inspired by all the tense blazers and little straw boater from Harrow School to college . Since then he has probed the peculiarities of the upper-class camp, forging patchwork collections from classic novels like Brideshead revisited, Mauritius, and Another country. “This season we are looking specifically at the role of sport within these schools and the toxic male associations of the playground and locker rooms,” he says. As such, her over-puffed pants and intricately embroidered shirts meet slightly more libidinous hems from rugby, rowing and cricket – shrunken and side-tie tank knits, cutout undershirts. plump and silk bathrobes.

“I’m pretty repository,” he says, pointing to the floor-to-ceiling moodboard behind him, which is covered in pictures of Oxford rowing clubs, ornate curtain fabric squares and charming homoerotic illustrations by Mark Beard. from the 1950s. It’s easy to see how, as an outsider, the designer read his own strangeness about the pomp and performativity of public school culture. Not to mention all those locker room “japes” that chic boys love to engage in – communal showers, slapping towels, or jokingly sticking fingers up each other’s asses. Likewise, their puffy shirts, extra long socks, and folk flower crowns weren’t something Stokey-Daley had experienced growing up in Merseyside, where people mostly wore ‘North jackets, tracksuits and sneakers. Face ”, as he remembers. “These boys would always yell at me,” which, more than an esoteric dissection of the upper crust, seems to be the real driving force behind this designer’s work. “The things these boys are celebrated for – and why they end up in official government positions – are the very reasons I was bullied.”

“There is a soul in Steven’s clothes that is so beautiful. Usually, graduate collections are so conceptual and unusable, but Steven manages to capture that editorial sensibility and drama while still feeling truly believable “- Harry Lambert

It is therefore normal that an ex-Etonian, the second black prefect of the school, plays in the series. “The actors are just amazing. But I never really felt in good shape for that sort of thing, ”Stokey-Daley said, pulling the sides of his shirt. “It can be really tough if you’re not conventionally good-looking or if you’re not six feet two inches tall. I remember someone telling me that I would never be successful as a gay actor and that I would never be chosen except in those kinds of roles. These conversations really took me away from the thing I was so in love with ”. And it looks like Stokey-Daley has more than skin in the game, but also heart, as her boyfriend, a dancer, experienced the decimation of the theater industry in real time during the pandemic. “It’s really hard to watch your professional world crumble and be totally ignored by the government, so I started to wonder how a platform like London Fashion Week could support other creative industries. “

In a recent interview, Stokey-Daley was asked why he felt like he could ‘fetishize Tory behavior’ when he himself was ‘so much of a worker’, as if he was a traitor, or worse. , a fantasy to do it. “I choose the class apart. I get these questions so often and I feel like they don’t really question where I’m from, but try to keep me there ”. It’s ironic, he says, given that there are so many exhibits from Oxford graduates looking north, “which literally consist of five black and white photos of an abandoned building.” But if those words make Stokey-Daley hostile in any way, it undermines how sensitive his work is – something stylist Harry Lambert quickly recognized, dressing his client, Harry Styles, in SS Daley looks all over the place. long of his “GoldenMusic clip. “There is a soul in Steven’s clothes that is so beautiful,” Lambert says. “Usually, graduate collections are so conceptual and unusable, but Steven manages to capture that editorial sensibility and drama all the way through. feeling really credible ”.

Stokey-Daley credits much of his success to Lambert – who also styled this season’s show – not to mention the business boom that followed “Golden”. Though he shyly talks about Harry Styles (“client privacy”), the creator admits the singer was generous in his support, getting “a first glimpse” of the sales before they went public. So it must be hard not to design with styles in mind. Matches Fashion also saw the Stokey-Daley dollar signs, launching the brand on its platform earlier this month. And, with his mother taking care of all SS Daley’s shipping and logistics, the designer clearly keeps his business as close to home as possible, which perhaps explains this sense of “soul” that people are talking. For this collection, an elderly neighbor knitted flowers for vests, another worked on hats, while two others produced shirts. “It’s really beautiful,” said Lambert. “Steven has built a real community in Liverpool”.

While so many young designers learn to be lawless or aggressive with their first collections, it was never particularly “Steven”. And although he’s radical, Stokey-Daley softens the blow by devoting himself to his work, using fashion as a means of introspection and balm the bruises of his teenage years – much like he did with the theater. “I wish people would see the big picture,” he says, “each collection becomes more and more diluted with my own experience. This season, I refer more than ever to my upbringing and who lives in sportswear. However, sometimes I wonder how far I’m going to go. It might be a while before he sees Stokey-Daley send off ecru North Face jackets and poplin tracksuits, but right now he’s happy with the turn of things. “Right now we just need to go,” he said, clapping his hands hastily before suddenly turning very pale – “oh my god I didn’t mean to you, I wasn’t telling you. not to go, ”he apologizes,“ I just meant we really had a lot of work to do ”.



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