With Help From Sir Ian McKellen, S.S.DALEY Stole Our Hearts for FW23

It’s a tall order to follow the majesty that is a live reading performed by Sir Ian McKellen, but Steven Stokey-Daley under his eponymous label S.S.DALEY proved it possible.

Showcased on day three of London Fashion Week, the designer took a leap into a never-before-explored realm of digital, auditory, and sensory studies. Showcased at the immersive entertainment district Outernet London, the show space itself was a departure from previous halls and British Fashion Council rooms. Instead, we were subjected to high-resolution graphics of a man at sea, the blue candescent lighting glowing against rafts cut from sheets of pattern cloth with rope tying it together.

And little did we know that Sir Ian McKellen would be the first to come out of the backstage door. Drifting into the room, the legendary actor performed a poem — The Coming of Arthur originally by Alfred, Lord Tennyson — and soon, McKellen’s voice billowed with drama as he spoke ferocious and stirring words inciting visions of a stormy sea.

The collection itself, titled “The Ninth Wave” after Kate Bush’s b-side of the same name, explored the designer’s great grandfather’s life at sea, while also welcoming a fresh understanding of lived Queer experiences. From the nude male form that adorned McKellen’s navy pea coat to the homoerotica that frequents sea stories of sailors gone by, the visual identity of a brand that’s taking steps to grow was all there.

S.S.DALEY is one to always tell a story, and once the literal part was finished, the clothes were allowed to speak volumes too. Speaking on his own work, Stokey-Daley said, “Listening to ‘The Ninth Wave’by Kate Bush, I found the whole universe in it. I do see clothes as music, and this feeling for the collection overtook me in a way that I couldn’t ignore. The pull of the water has led us to a fresh new world, one that’s about the confidence of being who I want to be.”

With this in mind, the designer has found a new level of design confidence. While classics from the brand remained, such as shirts adorned with vintage graphics, or dresses pinned at the waist with vintage Wedgwood plates, and even perhaps the amount of crochet that depicted fishing knots used to catch fish in the sea, there was a new sense of technicality applied throughout the collection.

An anorak with asymmetrical zips and raglan sleeves cinched at the waist with drawcords, but still maintained House codes like stripes and monogram motifs. However, it was paired with cotton cargo pants that had hand-finished overlocked stitches, designed to conjure thoughts of a sailor finishing the piece themselves. Together, this was S.S.DALEY’s next step in becoming a household name.

The collection grew, and grew, and grew. Dark blue sequins covered short shorts and, on the flip side, suits. Kaftans were printed with nude men in an orange glow, a sweater was knitted with dried flowers, and suit jacket buttons were made from ceramic. Hand-stitched “SSD” logos bordered collegiate but remained sailor in theme thanks to the blue-and-white design on knitted shoulder coverings gracing undone white shirts, while the use of Houndstooth check on coats and pants that swallowed the foot took S.S.DALEY’s FW23 collection a full 360, delivering things we know and love.

S.S.DALEY might have just taken London Fashion Week showgoers’ breath away. Find it all above for yourself, and be sure to find more London Fashion Week FW23 content across Hypebeast.

For more moving displays, take a look at Simone Rocha FW23.
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