Joe and Charlie Casely-Hayford were both born on May 24, exactly 30 years apart. It’s just one of the parallels linking the father-and-son designers, who manage to co-helm a luxury fashion house while balancing their contrasting creative identities.
The younger Charlie, 30, recalls sitting in his parents’ East End London studio — a workshop for Joe’s then-eponymous line, worn by rock ’n’ roll stars like the Clash and U2 — and absorbing the fundamentals of cutting and sewing.
It sparked Charlie’s interest in styling; he’d eventually cultivate his own famous-musician clientele, which has included Drake and Nas. But he was never expected to follow in his father’s designer footsteps.
“Growing up, fashion was always around me,” he tells Alexa. “But I remember when I was about 13, I asked my dad what he thought of me going into it myself. He told me ‘No way in hell,’ because it was so tough. To this day I don’t know if that was reverse psychology — if he was warning me — or if he’d planned this all along!”
By 2008, Charlie was studying art history at London’s Courtauld Institute and modeling for brands like Converse and Dr. Martens on the side.
Joe, meanwhile, had been appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (for his services to the fashion industry) and was immersed in his third year as creative director for Savile Row label Gieves & Hawkes.
After spending hours trading notes behind the scenes, an idea struck: Why not team up? “We have not looked back since,” Joe, 60, says with a smile.
No less than a year later, the Casely-Hayford brand was born.
The aim, he says, was to reflect the evolution of society from each of their (quite different) generational and aesthetic perspectives.
Nearly a decade later, the two have done just that, building a luxury men’s line that somehow synthesizes British anarchy with English heritage and a touch of modern-day sportswear.
Favored by the likes of Michael Fassbender and Benedict Cumberbatch, the garments are made by what may just be high fashion’s first father-and-son duo.
“Our vision is not always harmonious and lyrical — it can be jarring and about harsh cultural juxtaposition,” says Joe, noting that their creative process isn’t as generationally stereotypical as some might suspect.
“I often contribute the more progressive or avant-garde ideas and Charlie is more conservative,” he says. “Having been in the industry for some years now I can see the cycles with a kind of overview. The key is knowing how to reinterpret these cycles for a new generation.”
And what exactly does the new generation want? Father and son agree on this point: personalization.
After cementing their high-end brand via 18 runway collections, they’re now debuting a bespoke service offering personalized tailoring of any Casely-Hayford look from any previous season.
Clients can select from a library of 3,000 fabrics — from a Loro Piana Italian silk-wool blend to a stunning British worsted wool from Holland & Sherry — and expect the custom, precision-cut pieces to arrive within five to six weeks.
The designers refer to this new service as a “collaboration” between themselves and their clients.
Collaboration is certainly something the pair understands, after surviving the pains of growing from parent and child to partner et partner. Was the transition of hierarchy hard on their relationship? Is there any lingering weirdness?
“It’s interesting,” says Charlie. “Growing up, this notion of your dad being uncool was so foreign to me, because my dad had always been way cooler than I was. He was the one that introduced me to music! Now, the idea of a patriarchal figure doesn’t work so well when you’re working together. It’s more like having a brother than a father.”
Either way, it’s all in the fashion family.