Joe Casely-Hayford for John Lewis Spring Summer 2012

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There are collaborations, and there are collaborations. Whilst the recent Marni x H&M link up was a rare example of high fashion working successfully with a global mega chain (mostly to do with rigorous quality control I imagine), many such collaborations end up as high end badly translated via cheap materials. It’s always a pleasure therefore to see the latest Joe Casely-Hayford collection in his ongoing relationship with John Lewis.

John Lewis holds a special place in British hearts as a vanguard of good service and quality products (if a little conservative) whilst Joe Casely-Hayford,  stands for design excellence and beautiful materials, harking back to a time when fashion was less talked about but was no less cherished by those in the know. Result? Beautifully cut pieces in impressive fabrics, at accessible prices. What I love most about this partnership is Joe’s playful take on John Lewis‘s traditionalism. It’s like the best pieces from the John Lewis stockroom have been disassembled and put back together with a touch of Savile Row precision and an eye for British materials. In previous collections, quilting, layering and waxed fabrics have been the stand-out approaches.

In this collection the double-breasted shorts suit and the bold, African-inspired Liberty-print shirt capture the spirit for me. Shorts suits regularly appear on the high street, but I’ve yet to find one that’s well made enough to not look awkward. In Joe’s hands the fabrication looks substantial. A shorts suit needs to have the same presence as a regular suit, but with the lower part of the trousers missing. Too often, at least from the high street, its a pair of casual shorts with a hastily-assembled jacket in a matching flimsy material. And regarding the shirts, surely I don’t need to say too much about print right now? The fusion here of Liberty heritage with a very African sense of print and pattern placement speaks volumes about the Casely-Hayford genius for mixing it up. So next time you head to John Lewis‘s legendary kitchenware department to buy the muffin tin of your dreams, why not stop off in menswear to take a look at the Joe Casely-Hayford for John Lewis collection as well? It really is redefining what high street collaborations are all about.

Colin Chapman is the LDNfashion.com Menswear editor and also writes over at Sharpened Lead

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