Nicholas Daley naturally seeks for transparency in anything he does and therefore embodies, in my opinion, the perfect example of a designer who exceptionally masters his media. Moreover, the consistency of his work suggests a deep and genuine interest in the subjects that inspire him. As I enter his studio in Tottenham, Nicholas introduces me to the womenswear designer with which he shares this beautiful space. I instantly understand that Daley is a designer who is fully invested in anything he does. Before sitting with me, he asks for a couple minutes to direct his assistant, who is taking care of production, by checking some technical details with him.
Juteopolis is the title Nicholas chose for his Spring/Summer 2017 collection. As I am puzzled by this unusual word, Daley starts explaining its meaning and reassures me that he didn’t invent the word himself. In fact, the city of Dundee was known by this name, when, around the middle of the 19th century, it reached its peak as a manufacturing centre for jute in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case since – Nicholas remarks sadly – for over half of a century, most of the existing mills have been relocating their activities to India, in order to avoid the cost of importing jute. This has resulted in either the demolition of these industrial spaces or their reconversion into social flats. One of the few whom remain is Halley Stevensons, originally a jute mill which has recently diversified to waxed cotton and provided Nicholas with some amazing fabric for Juteopolis.
Nicholas explains: “I felt like continuing the storyline of what I have been researching so far.” His Juteopolis is therefore a historical journey into the rich Scottish heritage, as well as a further exploration of his personal background, as two generations of ancestors were directly involved in mill trade and his mother was born and raised in Dundee, Scotland.
Nicholas’ knowledge of the subject is impressive. He is a brilliant storyteller and treats me with an unexpected bit of information about Dundee. I am persuaded that he is thinking about his mother when he shares this with me: “Dundee has always had a history of strong female characters. Since there wasn’t a lot of work, except in the whaling industry, the women were working in the mills, bringing back the money, looking after the family. There are some exceptional stories of women entrepreneurs who, once the mills relocated to India, went there and had their own business.”