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Yesterday, Lou Dalton presented her latest collection for London Collections: Men. Moments after the models had filed back into the changing room, to the sounds of Joe Smooth’s classic House anthem Promised Land, an emotional and exhausted Lou talked us through the origins of this collection, from the significance of the musical soundtrack to her own recollections of the era that inspired it.
How aware were you of other designers who have used this period of Britain’s dance music history as a source of inspiration?
LD: I am aware of other designers, who have used a similar aesthetic, and how each of us approaches it, but I have a certain handwriting; construction is one of my strengths, detail and utilitarian are things I try to hone in on every season. This is a time I lived through, I remember it really well, the guys I used to come across were really sexy, I didn’t want it to come across as too “scally”. That guy has grown up now, he’s like me, he’s 40, I wanted to make beautiful clothes that had a history, that remind you of a certain time but not in a nostalgic kind of way.
What did the research involve?
LD: I was watching a repeat of a Joy Division documentary on BBC4, when I was working late, and I realised, I remembered the Hacienda and going up there for the last night in ’92, when it was all starting to fall apart. Also, I grew up listening to Bund by Happy Mondays and Wrote For Luck is an anthem in my archive of music, it says so much: “I order a line, you form a queue” and all that. It was really hard to listen to that album at that time, when you think about what those boys stood for… it’s different now. If I was just to emulate that, it wouldn’t be exciting or true to Lou Dalton. I don’t want to do comedy, I want to do something that has a heart and feels personal to me.
What was the trigger for this inspiration, was it emotional?
LD: Yes, it was, it was emotional. Over the last season I instantly wanted to do something incredibly light so when I started doing the research I started working with a mill that we hadn’t used before and they do an awful lot of technical fabrics, really lightweight. Once again, Cerruti have sponsored us, and one of the fabrics for them was a silk/cotton mix incredibly light, almost parachute light. Last season was a bit heavy, lots of zips and details and I wanted to really strip it back but hone in again on what I feel is my strength: utilitarian, traditional sportswear but make it more contemporary. In a way t was always there, and there’s always a narrative with Lou, but I’ve not really honed into the fact of when I felt the most content in my life and I made the decision to go back into education and was introduced to a scene that was so far removed from what I was used to at the time… a West Midlands girl living in Shropshire… It felt so right but I didn’t want it to be stupid, I wanted it to feel relevant and to take you guys on a journey, not in a nostalgic kind of way but moving forward with it, through wearable clothes, the print and the tones, creating clothes you boys would want to wear.
The orange and the blue, any particular reason for those colours?
LD: When I started doing the research, obviously I go to all the trade shows… I love navy and with the utilitarian tone of what we do, the burnt orange comes through in industrial colour tones and so forth, it just felt right. I found this really beautiful photograph of a housing estate, the old breezeblocks and just the backdrop of the sky, it was the most amazing sky blue and there was amazing burnt orange in there and I thought “this would be amazing,” and then I started to pull the palette together from that.
If you break the collection down you’ll see blocks in there, it’s a continuous thread running through it, and if you think about last season with the zipped jackets, two in one, its very much based on that Harrington style and hopefully creating a modern man’s wardrobe.