Like many students who graduated – without the cap and gown – this past summer, Steven Stokey-Daley’s aspirations for post-uni life have been turned inside out and upside down. “Being a 2020 graduate is confusing,” says the designer. “Previous ambitions of progressing on to work for established houses are met with dead-ends, shrinking design teams and Rishi Sunaks’ genius idea for us to simply ‘retrain.’” Luckily for this Scouse menswear talent, however, a keen interest in his University of Westminster graduate collection (in particular his wide-legged trousers) has prompted Stokey-Daley to take matters into his own hands by opening his very own e-store.
“Launching an online platform to sell pieces made from donated deadstock fabrics, upcycled vintage possessions and preloved garments is merely a way to break away from the conventional fashion calendar and produce what I can, when I can,” explains Stokey-Daley, who is kicking things off with a collection of bespoke shirts made from donated linens and vintage homewares. The designer will also be flogging some of his wide-leg trousers made from donated fabrics courtesy of a variety of British fashion houses – “Think Cecil Beaton X Northern tea time,” as he describes such creations.
Stokey-Daley will be releasing all his new clobber in a series of small drops, which will be housed next to another page on his website dubbed ‘Re-Drawn’, a gallery for artwork created by his peers based on how they each interpret the designer’s work. “I think the key to creative survival is collaboration,” affirms the designer. “There are still some really exciting things to come for the platform before the year is out; so right now the sky’s the limit!” Whilst you shop till you can’t shop any more, give your spending fingers a rest by reading Sarah Mower’s interview with Stokey-Daley inside the 20th Anniversary Issue of 10 Magazine, as one of the esteemed journalist’s six designers to watch.
Never underestimate the power of making one or two things really, really well, especially in a crisis. Steven Stokey-Daley, class of 2020, can testify to that: right in the middle of lockdown, a pair of impeccably cut, wide-legged toile de Jouy trousers, Look one in his Westminster graduation show, triggered wild demand through his Instagram DMs. “I mean, it was a hundred requests, four orders in a day at one point, from people all over – men, women, K-pop stylists,” he says, chuckling. “And there I was, back home in Liverpool with my family, not able to go out or buy anything. I had my pattern and sewing machine, and luckily I’d always stored my leftover materials. So I started replying, ‘Yes, I can do them in this fabric, if you want.’”
The tsunami had been set in motion by a post by the influencer Louis Rubi, an aficionado of super-wide tailored trousers. Stokey-Daley had loaned him his blue-rose-printed Oxford bags – “made from a huge, gorgeous linen curtain” – sometime after his Westminster BA graduation show, which got in just under the wire in February. Weeks later, in a world gone mad, here were people still excited about getting their hands on a piece of fashion. So Stokey-Daley decided he could work it out, “in my living room-slash-studio pop- up! A lovely, really good machinist in London said she was happy to help me out, because this crisis was hitting seamstresses badly. So I was able to start taking pre-orders, being careful, making sure everyone knew how long it would take.”
Stokey-Daley’s unlikely chance to earn an income in the world’s darkest hours is incredibly well deserved. His collection, based on Eton and Harrow schoolboys, had a luxury-level finish, lovingly put together largely from deadstock fabric donated by Alexander McQueen – and a subversive twist that comes from a working-class northerner looking at public-school privilege. “I’d never seen anything like pictures of Henley regatta, with the boaters they wear smothered with flowers. It started me on a spider’s web of research, on Brideshead Revisited, Sebastian Flyte, gay upper-class codes. It was so far off my culture. Coming from an ex-council estate in Liverpool, I was almost looking at them anthropologically. But that’s where this government comes from, isn’t it?”
Now Stokey-Daley – blessed with a winning combination of pragmatism and optimism – is taking it one step at a time, buying up second-hand fabric and “stunning vintage curtain material and lace” from Liverpool manufacturers. “It’s not acceptable not to talk about sustainability when you’re a student. That’s what I’ll always keep to.” Recently, he added an alluring shirt to his Instagram Stories, to see if anyone was interested.
It might seem far-fetched, but many a solid fashion business has been founded on the appeal of one item. In 1970, also a time of slump, Ralph Lauren did exactly that. Different times, different generations – but what the talented Steven Stokey-Daley has going? It resonates.
by Sarah Mower
Photography courtesy of Steven Stokey-Daley. You can visit the S.S.Daley online store here.
Taken from Issue 16 of 10 Magazine Australia, out TOMORROW.