Nicholas Daley On His Feel Good Fender Collection

With Hak Baker and Amy Gadiaga.

Award winning London designer Nicholas Daley has collaborated with  Fender for a limited edition capsule collection. Clash spoke to Nicholas about the collaboration, how music inspires his work and why he chose Hak Baker and Amy Gadiaga to represent his collection. 

A recent recipient of the BFC/GQ Designer Fashion Fund for 2022, Nicholas Daley’s eponymous brand has a long standing ties to music. Each one of his shows is accompanied by live music and earleir this year he presented a collaboration with Wu-Lu to raise money and awareness for the Raw Material charity: a music and arts centre that supports the young artists and musicians through creative opportunities in Brixton. 

This collaboration with the iconic guitar manufacturer is inspired by Fender’s new American Vintage II design and the music scene of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Daley’s affinity with music and penchant for vintage design made him the perfect match for Fender’s new launch. An enduring and nostalgic collection that celebrates the history of music and fashion, Nicholas Daley proves once again to be one of the most exciting designers around.

Nicholas Daley On His Feel Good Fender Collection

Why did the Fender collaboration feel right for Nicholas Daley the brand?

It felt like a natural synergy with what I do with fashion and music and bridging these worlds together, and the different mediums and soundscapes. I do feel fashion is a vehicle to tell stories and I think Fender’s story is really really interesting, and the legacy of Fender as a guitar manufacturer, and how we can work together on something interesting and fresh, with a contemporary feel as well. Because obviously this is the launch of their American Vintage II collection and how we approached design was reworking vintage styles and just really celebrating the iconic visuals and ideas around Fender and then bringing in what I also do within the fashion context, and I think it’s a really interesting mix. 

Your brand has deep roots in music, how do fashion and music intersect for you? How does music inspire your work?

Both are really powerful mediums to express your individuality, your identity, and the way you’re feeling. So, for me, bringing those together is what I’m constantly trying to play on through my shows, through collaborations, and through my own main line. Every season I’m just trying to work and collaborate with different musicians and artists, trying to support musicians on different projects which I believe in, so for me, it’s definitely something that I will continue to do. They’re both my loves, fashion and music, I really, really love them both and I get so much from them creatively. For me, it’s always about trying to celebrate both and intertwine them, and I felt that that’s the reason why this project with Fender felt like a really good one to explore and it’s been a really great experience. 

Can you tell me about the design process for this collection? How did you conceptualise the prints?

The approach was to use archival imagery from Fender’s archive and reworking that in a collage effect. Blending very iconic guitars like the Telecaster and Jazzmaster and creating this really interesting print design. Paying respect to the concept of Fender and what they’ve done by looking back at their archive through their vintage guitar catalogue, and repurposing and reusing vintage t-shirts which we found across various dealers and suppliers. Every t-shirt is one-of-one and we did a deconstruction and took them apart, rebuilt them together and then over-printed them with the screen-printing, which was done here in the UK as well. So, the whole process has been really tight, and very artisanal, and I think that’s the best way to approach it when working with Fender. 

We’re trying to resonate off what they’ve achieved with their guitars, and (thinking) ‘how I can put that into a fashion context?’. For most musicians and artists, merch t-shirts – every gig and show there’s always some sort of gig t-shirt or show t-shirt to wear, so that’s why it’s pretty obvious to work around that as a starting block. The designs were created by myself and the team, and to go with that we worked on a MA 1 bomber jacket which is an iconic silhouette within the fashion construct of styles which are very identifiable with contemporary musicians and even musicians from the past. So, we worked on MA 1 and again that was repurposing lots of vintage and deadstock fabric from my archives; from things that we’ve sourced to create this bespoke one-off style, which really harmonises and encapsulates the rest of the range. So both the bomber jacket and the t-shirts are all one-of-ones, they’re all individual in how they’ve been put together, and I think that’s the same way that Fender would approach reusing their guitars and working with different musicians and artists. They have such a strong reputation within the music industry for creating really great products for lots of different musicians to play off. So, I think that’s the reason why it sort of worked quite well when we were building this capsule with Fender to create this new range which we’re releasing. 

Nicholas Daley On His Feel Good Fender Collection

Why is the American Vintage II guitar special?

It’s just so iconic: the shape, the silhouette, the colours. The musicians who played on that guitar, past and present. In a time where people need that creative outlet and musicians are finding it difficult within the construct of the situation we’re in globally, I think getting good hardware and decent hardware, where they can play and do what they need to do, creatively, is so important. So hopefully, Fender continues pushing out good product which musicians can play, which is only going to help the situation, and improve and create the next Patti Smith, and create the next Jimi, you know, or whoever’s going to be shredding on the guitar. Mansur Brown, all these other amazing talents – Hak Baker, Amy Gadiaga – who were both featured in the shoot, you know. That’s the kind of, Fender’s kind of duty really, to keep creating great products so the next generations of musicians and artists can come through. So, it’s nice to be part of it, to work with the brand, to produce such amazing product. And that’s what I always work with in terms of the craftsmanship of what I do, like when I develop the fabrics, I work with different mills and artisans around the world. Fender is also part of that same catalogue, and is another manufacturer, or product maker. Obviously, this is a guitar but I think there’s a lot to resonate with that, and how that sort of informs what I do and how I approach my work. So yeah, that’s the reason why it’s been a really positive project to work on.

This collection is inspired by the 50s, 60s, and 70s, which decade of music inspires you the most? 

That’s quite hard! I guess the 70s is pretty amazing. I always want to go back to Woodstock when Miles Davis was playing at Woodstock, and Jimi and Richie Havens and all these amazing musicians. That would be a vibe just to teleport there. Santana, that’s another amazing guitarist, so it would be a vibe to go back. But also at the same time, right now there some amazing, incredible artists and musicians so I feel like it’s also good to see such as vast rich array of artistry coming out. And lots of different amazing guitar players who are pushing things forward to the next stage of the musical cycle.

What was it like working with Hak Baker and Amy Gadiaga for the campaign? Why did you choose them to represent this collaboration?

Obviously Hak – amazing singer songwriter. I think his story and journey are really interesting. And he’s a storyteller, which I think is really important. Just give Hak a guitar and a mic, and that’s all you need, he’s going to tell you a story about his life and his community, about everything and what’s around him and his experiences. And there’s no grey, he’s very black and white in terms of how he sees things, which is quite refreshing. He’s an incredible artist and it’s great to see his growth and trajectory. He’s one of East London’s finest, so it’s nice to work with Hak. Also having Jamaican roots as well, the same as me, there’s lots of synergies there between us. I just really respect what he does, musically, but also just as a person, as an individual, and I guess there’s so much around British folk music – I wouldn’t say Hak is primarily like British folk music, but I feel as though he falls into that category in some ways, and I think it’s really important that we have these type of artists who are really talking about the complexities and realities of his life and where he’s come from and where he’s going to, and what he’s been through. I think that’s important. 

And Amy, super amazing. I’ve seen her play a couple of times – amazing double bass player, amazing bass player. And the whole UK jazz scene right now is just growing and growing so much, which I have been privileged to be a part of and worked with so many other jazz artists from this new vanguard. So Amy is super amazing, and I love her sort of flipping between her English and French, and her Senegalese heritage and I think it’s really important, also within the industry, that female musicians and artists, especially female artists of colour get more light shined on them, for sure, in terms of the next generation. Amy is definitely one to watch, in terms of her growth, as a musician, as an artist. There’s some stuff on her Instagram, she’s playing like Davy Graham, who’s an amazing British folk artist, and she was like 15 years old. I was like how do you even know who Davy Graham, when you’re 15? She has such a maturity about her approach to music, and her soundscape. She’s working with a lot of other really great groups right now as well, so it’s really nice to have someone who’s up and coming part of the collection and try and support them through this campaign. It would be amazing to see where she’s at in the next 2 to 3 years as she continues to tour and release more music, so it’s been great to work with both Hak and Amy. They’re both quite individual in their own right, in different ways, both amazing musicians and artists who are able to be part of this capsule

Nicholas Daley On His Feel Good Fender Collection

How did working with Fender compare to previous collaborations you’ve done? Is it challenging to work with a non-fashion brand?

I wouldn’t say it’s challenging as long as the expectations are clear and everyone is clear on the objectives, and also understand each other’s roles, I think all collaborations can work. It’s more about communication. I think because of my natural synergy within the music world and people who I already would like to feature in the shoot, or people I’ve worked with in the past, or the approach on the design, I already had an idea straight away of what I wanted to do with the sort of graphic, visual idea with Fender’s guitars from the archival imagery. For me, if the idea comes quite quickly and naturally, that’s always a good sign. Whereas it feels like I’ve had several meetings to get to something where you feel like ‘oh this could work’. It might be difficult to make this project feel as rich as it should be, so it all depends on making sure the alignment between the two entities, whether its me or Fender, you know, or whoever’s collaborating, I feel like there always has to be this synergy and authenticity to start with. Everything else can just be built on top. But no, I haven’t found it too challenging, because for me, it felt like I could add something to the conversation and it was great that Fender was, that I could work with them. And hopefully there’s more to continue moving forward.

What would you say is the key piece from the collection?

The MA 1 was definitely a great piece to work on. The bomber jacket because that had quite a few processes. From selecting the vintage fabrics, sending it over to Chris English the quilter, in Manchester, and he quilted it all, and then coming back down to us, and working with our manufacturer here in London producing the garment. The MA 1 definitely had the most engineering within the design, so that was probably a really really interesting thing for me to see that evolve over the stages with which we had in place. And the t-shirts are great as well, but probably the bomber because it had more layers intertwined to create that piece for this project. 

Which is your favourite American Vintage II colourway?

Probably ‘Sunburst’ which is the amber, sort of the amber/brown amber on the bass guitar. I really love how the hues and the tones, from that very intense mustard orange right through to the browns, then to the deep mahogany. It’s pretty classic and iconic. But also the cherry red is pretty nice as well, that’s pretty firey. I think all the colours are really strong and identifiable but probably the cherry red, and the sort of deeper amber are both cool colourways.

Who are you listening to at the moment and who are you excited about?

I’m excited about my wife Nabihah Iqbal, who’s releasing her album next year. Obviously I’m married to her and her music is amazing, and I’m so excited to show on here what she’s been creating.

Right now… I mean, it’s always changing, to be honest with you. Well I’ve been listening to quite a lot of Wu-Lu, who we worked with on the new AW22 collection which is out now, ‘Dark Haze’. I’ve been listening to a lot of Miles, a lot of other UK artists like Coby Sey, he just released his album recently. To be honest, it’s a lot of people who are friends of mine I guess, the artists who are part of my community, or people who I’ve met that have put me onto different stuff. Generally, I always feel like it’s a much richer experience when I know that individual and they’ve created this music or artistry and listening to it. But I can’t think off the top of my head right now. 

Shop the collection now at nicholasdaley.net

Nicholas Daley On His Feel Good Fender Collection
Nicholas Daley On His Feel Good Fender Collection

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