Remembering Ghanaian-British fashion icon Joe Casely-Hayford who died at 62

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson January 09, 2019

Tributes are still pouring in for the Ghanaian-British celebrated and iconic fashion designer, Joe Casely-Hayford, who passed away on Thursday, January 3, at the age of 62. 

According to the New York Times, the celebrated fashion designer died after a three-year battle with cancer.

Joe Casely-Hayford, who is described as one of the most talented black designers in the UK, was survived by his wife of 39 years – Maria Casely-Hayford – and two children: Charlie Casely-Hayford and Alice Casely-Hayford. 

His death is a huge loss to the British and global fashion industry as he has been described as a pioneer black fashion designer in the UK, way-paver for bespoke, and the global streetwear fashion trend, as well as, the innovator of the new conservative dressing style that changed the formal ways suits were worn.

 Photo by Nick Harvey — Joe Casely-Hayford Breitling launches ‘The Emergency II’ on HMS Belfast, London, Britain – 25 Nov 2014

The iconic designer belonged to the Casely-Hayford family, one of the most influential families in Ghana, Africa and Britain. Born on May 24, 1956, in Kent, UK, Joe Casely-Hayford was named after his Pan Africanist grandfather, J.E. Casely-Hayford whose name is recorded in history as the author of the first book written in English by an African in 1911, an editor, politician and lawyer. His father was Victor Casely-Hayford.

J. E Casely Hayford 

Joe showed interest in fashion and designing at an early age and studied at the Tailor and Cutter Academy. He attended St. Martin’s School of Art right after and graduated in 1979.

After completing fashion school, Joe quickly started his fashion business and gained a name for himself and soon became the number one pick designer for the rockstars in the UK and U.S.A.

After meeting and marrying his wife in 1980, Joe Casely-Hayford and Marie established their unisex fashion house, KIT, in 1983, where he worked hard breaking fashion traditions and barriers and soon became known as a black British fashion designer to reckon with. His frost collection contained skirts, trousers, shirts, and jackets made from World War 2 tents.

Joe Casely Hayford

Casely-Hayford reached several heights with his fashion career and paved the way for several black fashion designers in the industry including Ozwald Boateng.

One of Casely-Hayford’s first successes was to dress several musicians, including the first man to cover Vogue Magazine in 1992. Joe went on to become the first designer in the UK to work with a topnotch commercial retail shop. In 1995, the Princess of Wales, Princess Diana, was present at his runway show.

Joe Casely Hayford and Charlie Casely Hayford

By 2000, Casely-Hayford had established himself as a designer with a difference, being able to design for both men and women. In 2005, he became the first designer of colour to hold the position of creative director for Gieves & Hawkes, which was responsible for tailoring for the royals and several elites in the UK. Through this position, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2007.

In 2009, the fashion icon teamed up with his son, Charlie Casely-Hayford, to start a luxury fashion line, Casely-Hayford, which has enjoyed tremendous success since its beginning. The father and son recently opened a new shop in Chiltern Street in London a month before his passing.

Casely-Hayford’s work in the fashion industry did not only influence huge names in the industry but also his children. While his son worked closely with him on their fashion line since 2009, his daughter, Alice Casely-Hayford, was appointed as the British Vogue Digital Editor.

Casely-Hayford will forever be remembered for his great contribution to streetwear fashion and the industry at large. With several awards and accolades to his name, the pioneering figure has lived up to the legacy of his family’s name.


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