Style | The Aesthete

Joe Casely-Hayford talks style: Part Two

The fashion designer puts the finishing touches to his digest of tasteful revelations.

November 10 2011
Charlotte Sinclair

My style icon is Jean Des Esseintes. He’s the protagonist of Against Nature [A Rebours], which was written by Joris-Karl Huysmans in 1884. Des Esseintes is a reclusive, eccentric aristocrat who loathes bourgeois society, and retreats into an ideal, artistic world of his own making. He fills his home with an eclectic art collection and spends the rest of his life in aesthetic, intellectual contemplation. It sounds really appealing to me; I could do with a few months of that.

The last meal that truly impressed me was in the private dining room at Hôtel de Mikuni, in Tokyo. It’s run by Kiyomi Mikuni, who trained under Paul Haeberlin and Alain Chapel, so the menu is fundamentally based on traditional French cooking, but executed from a Japanese perspective. It’s incredible. 1-18 Wakaba, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0011 (+813-3351 3810; www.oui-mikuni.co.jp).

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the last year is St Kitts in the West Indies. I stayed at my sister-in-law’s place in Frigate Bay, which was absolutely beautiful. We had an exquisite meal at The Golden Lemon Inn. We travel a lot during the year, visiting the major cities such as Tokyo and New York, so it was a nice contrast to visit somewhere like St Kitts. Normally I need a holiday when I get back from travelling, but this time I just read and read. It was perfect. Dieppe Bay, St Kitts (+1869-465 7260; www.goldenlemon.com).

The best gift I’ve given recently was an ink line drawing by Christian Bérard called The Dancer, which I gave to my wife. It’s dated 1930 and is from the ballet La Nuit, for which Bérard designed the sets. I bought it from one of my favourite dealers in Paris, Anne Julien. 14 rue de Seine, Paris 75006 (+331-4325 6566; galerie.anne.julien.free.fr).

And the best gift I’ve received recently was a surprise weekend in Vienna with my wife, courtesy of my son Charlie. We stayed at the Hotel Bristol. It was absolutely fantastic. Kärntner Ring 1, Vienna 1015 (+431-515 160; www.bristolvienna.com); from €236.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Anselm Kiefer, the German painter who studied with Joseph Beuys in the 1970s. I like the way his work incorporates different materials such as straw and clay. There’s a picture called Shevirat Ha-Kelim, from 1990; it’s a powerful image of a very simple dress, and it communicates a lot more to me than looking at a lot of bland fashion collections. www.whitecube.com.

My favourite room? Frankly, any room in my house will do; I travel so much that I just love the idea of being at home.

The thing I’m eyeing next is a Tweed Woodbox Pullman suitcase by Hartmann – an American company established about a century ago. This particular style, the Pullman, I think dates back to the 1960s, and the wooden frame does make it a little heavy for the modern-day traveller... but I guess there’s nothing wrong with suffering for style. I’m onto my fourth case now. www.hartmannluggage.com.

The people I rely on for grooming and personal style include WS Foster & Son, Edward Green, Tricker’s and John Lobb. I make what I wear, and I don’t have any hair, so have no need for a hair stylist; but I love Jermyn Street shoes. I think I’ve got 100 pairs from these guys. It’s safe to say I rely quite heavily on the shoe suppliers of Northampton. www.edwardgreen.com. www.johnlobb.com. www.trickers.com. www.wsfoster.com.

In my fridge you’ll always find assorted mushrooms, spinach, eggs, fruit juice... I’m not a cook; sadly, I rely on my wife. I’m a good eater, though.

An object I would never part with is a beautiful etched silver Montegrappa fountain pen, a gift from my wife that I carry at all times. Once on a trip to New York, I lost it on the plane. I couldn’t believe my luck when, on my return journey, it was tucked into the back of the seat in front of me. I’ve had it for about 20 years. www.montegrappa.com.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Aoyama in Tokyo. It’s one of the most popular shopping districts but the atmosphere is really relaxed, mainly because it’s made up of independent stores. I really dislike the feeling of homogeneity you get when you travel to a lot of the major cities. We have our press and distribution offices in Aoyama, just next to Comme des Garçons. It makes life very difficult for me since I’m always having to pop in and buy the odd thing. 5-2-1 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku Tokyo 107-0062 (+813-3406 3951; www.comme-des-garcons.com).

If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Paris. As a fashion designer I’ve had to visit Paris a minimum of four times a year for the past 25 years. It’s like a second home to me now. I love the layout of the city, the independent stores and businesses. I also appreciate the importance that Parisians attach to their historical buildings.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a painting restorer. I love the idea of bringing something beautiful back to life. Fashion is always about moving forward, so I find the idea of restoration quite contemplative – it’s the appreciation of something that already exists, rather than the obsolescence built into fashion. I imagine it’s a very calming and rewarding profession.

See also

People, Interview