Lou Dalton, AW13: raw terrain and Local Heroes
Almost a week ago, Lou Dalton opened London Collections Men: AW13, presenting her collection to an attentive crowd primed for a week of looking at fashion for men. Whilst being the opening act will never be an easy gig, Lou is a perfect choice for this particular role. From the very first look, there was an air of calm accomplishment about her work and under her steady hand, London Collections: Men AW13 was starting out pitch perfect.
It feels right to be reviewing this collection now. By the end of the week of looking at beautiful garments on striking looking men, there is a sense of blur. As much as you want to see more, there is an element of visual fatigue, so going back to the start now feels right.
The City-boy formality of the opening looks was a surprise, especially given what Lou had said about being inspired by the raw, rugged landscape of The Shetland Isles. But, as ever with Lou, we were in the hands of a master storyteller, and the tension between the urban, City sophistication of the tailoring and the earthier, more visceral pieces to come was the very heart of the story unfolding. Looking back at these photos, I’m struck not only by the strength of Lou’s vision but also by the great styling by John McCarty. In this and other shows this week the role of the menswear stylist to hone a collection to an absolute gleam has been apparent.
At this point, let’s take a closer look at those boots. A collaboration with Grenson, the brass detail on the front of the boot is all set to become a design classic.
One of the joys of LCM is being able to almost instantly take a closer look at the collections in the showrooms above the main showspace. These boots have already caused a lot of excitement within the menswear community, and are on my personal wishlist too. The brass plates with the tiny screws into the bed of the soles have a an almost steampunk aesthetic, the heft of the boot, together with this detail, and the precise styling of the lacing says much about Britain’s industrial past.
The term Post Punk was buzzing around in my head all week after seeing Lou’s show and cropped up more explicitly at the YMC show later. The combination of the punky tailoring, the mohair sweaters, and most significantly, the Black Watch tartan and shiny black vinyl fabrics bore echoes of countercultural uniforms from the days when bands with esoteric ideals and political intent emerged from some of Britain’s grimmest, post-industrial centres.
As well as the Black Watch tartan pieces there were also striking examples of red tartan, upping both the Highland heritage appeal and the punky echoes.
A sleek black boilersuit. Part industrial uniform, part electronic music pioneer.
The last word I’d read by Lou before stepping into the show was about her attempting to make her clothing look not too formal, given that tailoring is central to the work. And throughout, the tailoring impressed me with it’s complexity: the paneling, cut and particularly the unique shape of the lapels, with three-dimensional folds against the body of the jacket.
Having returned to the start in reviewing this collection, it’s reassuring to see that my initial reaction was right: this was a very confident collection grounded in a strong story and full of the rich visual language that great storytelling relies on.