Lou Dalton AW12: Clothes for romance and kitchen sink dramas
Pathos isn’t typically an emotion one expects from a show at London Fashion Week but as orchestral strings struck the opening note at Lou Dalton’s show there was an instant sense of heartstrings being tugged too. Here was a story. Which made perfect sense after reading the press release which explains the collection’s inspiration in a wartime love story between a conscripted officer and a local land girl. This simple narrative context provided Dalton with an opportunity to mix military and country garments, a combination which perfectly lends itself to her ongoing exploration of traditional English country attire.
I loved the idea of a wardrobe begged and borrowed to withstand hardship, assembled through the need for warmth and practicality (an idea reminding me of the E.Tautz mix of sportswear and warm layers from the ‘Cuban Olympians’ collection last season) and creating one-off fusions of old and new in the process.
At Lou Dalton, this assemblage came through most immediately in the use of different cloths and types of garment in clever layering, strikingly in washed and faded denim and a tan workwear fabric punctuating the tailoring. Throughout, the note of romance was sustained through pitch-perfect military hats by East London’s own Bernstock Speirs, bringing with them both formality and a leveling sense of the soldier as everyman. Use of regimental cloths in shapes suggested the emergence of a new generation, eager to shake off history but still stamped with a sense of history.
Here too was luxury: harris tweed in a rich orange biker jacket, glittering texture on a blazer, a honeycomb cashmere sweater in pale aqua blue, and a light suit bringing a note of uplift against swathes of blue-black.
This was a very cohesive collection, perfectly attuned to the mix of tradition and modernity that could define London street style right now. Lou Dalton’s collections always refer to a story, to the social context which inspires her clothing, the direct opposite of the Ralph Lauren broad stroke approach to history (complete with Downton Abbey soundtrack), here juxtaposing a simple tale with anything but simple clothing and showing a rich engagement with the nuances of our social history. As my pictures hopefully demonstrate, there was great atmosphere in the room yesterday, all eyes were on the clothes, but we were also all very taken by the moment.