by MR Magazine Staff
Joe Casely-Hayford / Photo by Ben Weller

MR Magazine is saddened to report the passing of British menswear designer Joe Casely-Hayford on Thursday, January 3, 2019. He was 62.

Casely-Hayford, who had had cancer for three years, was considered to be one of the great British designers of his generation. He became well known and highly sought after in the late 70s for his bespoke tailoring, which he deconstructed to give a streetwear sensibility.

For four decades, he shaped an aesthetic that broke boundaries between bespoke tailoring and streetwear, establishment and punk, formal structure and fluidity. His work helped shape a new kind of British culture and international style for the 21st century.

When Casely-Hayford launched his first eponymous label in 1984 he was at the heart of a revolution in London fashion that forged a new identity for the city as a place of radical innovation. He was the gentleman tailor within a tightly-knit scene of iconoclast designers and labels that included John Galliano, BodyMap and Richmond/Cornejo. He became an integral and much-loved part of the lexicon of London street style.

Casely-Hayford’s industry debut consisted of a collection constructed from WWII tents that he had unearthed from an old warehouse on Clink Street. The result was typical of an alchemical, sometimes anarchic approach to textiles, cut, silhouette and detailing that he had already demonstrated after formal training on Savile Row, at the Tailor and Cutter Academy and at St Martins School of Art. After graduating in 1979 he immediately began selling work internationally to huge acclaim – press, buyers and clients were instantly drawn to his modernist sensibilities. When he established his own label five years later, he was already an industry star, having redefined the trope of “classic with a twist”.

Charlie and Joe Casely-Hayford
Charlie and Joe Casely-Hayford

Casely-Hayford could be subversive, but his work was always grounded in sartorial excellence. He created suits for prime ministers and rock stars, from Lou Reed to The Clash. When Bono was the first man to appear on the cover of British Vogue, in 1992, it was wearing Joe Casely-Hayford. The construction of a Casely-Hayford suit is a feat of engineering – from the prominent chest with special internal darting to the prominent sleeve head roll, shaped sleeve with high underarm point and natural sloping shoulders. Casely-Hayford’s design vocabulary incorporated lighter fabrics and ingenuity of cut to let the wearer move in ways tailoring hadn’t allowed before, whether that was on the street, or on the stage. He deconstructed formal tailoring to create what he called “new conservative dressing”. He was one of a handful of tailors – not just of his generation, but of the last 100 years – to push the boundaries of the medium and form, always creating something new, but always something that his loyal customer base, from New York to Tokyo, wanted to wear.

Joe Casely-Hayford was grounded in being classless and cosmopolitan – he fashioned an ongoing document of the London in which he grew up and worked. At the same time, he was one of the few black designers to rise to a position of global prominence. The Casely-Hayford name has established its place in the history of the U.K. – Joe’s grandfather was J.E. Casely-Hayford, the esteemed Ghanian lawyer and journalist and author of Ethiopia Unbound. Joe’s brother Gus is a curator, cultural historian and broadcaster, his other brother Peter is a television producer and his sister is businesswoman, lawyer and mentor Margaret Casely-Hayford.

Joe met his wife, Maria Stevens, while they were both studying at St Martins. They married in 1980 and Maria worked closely with Joe, day in, day out, from the mid-1980s onwards. She was one of the driving forces of both the original Joe Casely-Hayford label, and everything Casely-Hayford did afterwards, including his celebrated tenure as creative director at Gieves and Hawkes from 2005-2008. Their journey together was remarkable, collaborating with the likes of close friend Chris Ofili as well as Terence Conran. Casely-Hayford’s designs went worldwide in a spectrum of markets, from John Lewis to 10 Corso Como, Dover Street Market and Barneys. He was awarded an OBE in 2007. Joe and Maria had two children, Charlie (in 1986) and Alice (in 1989). Charlie joined the family business as co-designer and Alice Casely-Hayford forged a career in fashion journalism, and is currently editor of

In 2009, Joe launched a new Casely-Hayford label with son Charlie to international acclaim, offering bespoke as well as cutting edge streetwear inspired by the hugely diverse elements of contemporary London, but realised in the most advanced factories of Japan. Together, they represented something that captured the imagination of the style world – two generations of the same family taking inspiration from both classic British tailoring and an archive of revolutionary designs that Casely-Hayford senior had created. In 2018 the label opened its first standalone store on Chiltern Street in London, selling both menswear and womenswear.