Lou Dalton's pursuit of well crafted menswear began in her home county of Shropshire when she left school at sixteen to take an apprenticeship in pattern cutting. Inspired by this world of traditional menswear she then completed a masters degree in menswear from the Royal College of Art, before launching her own line in 2005. The design talent has since tailored a reputation for rebellious English sportswear for her working class souls."There is always a narrative with my collections and there were various influences this season that all lent themselves to the continuation of my fascination with the idea of working class heroes," Dalton declares over a cup of tea in her East London studio. Here, the designer introduces her methods and allows us to take a closer look at her inspirations and technical drawings as AW12 takes shape….
"I look mainly at vintage clothing. For me, a vintage find is far more inspiring. One of the key finds actually belongs to my good friend Hamish and it is an old military jacket that I've used as a foundation block for some of our outerwear pieces. It is falling apart now but it is so much more exciting than looking at the work of designer's that I admire. It is far more relevant now and always has been. Vintage clothing and traditional menswear inspired me to pursue this career in the first place."
From the odd look book or catwalk shot sitting alongside a wall of hand drawn technical drawings to countless patterns, a diverse mix of vintage finds and fabric swatches scattered throughout, Dalton's studio is an inspiring space...
A selection of inspiration finds.
"Now, I tend not to take much time off so when I do I try and catch up with exhibitions, films and whatnot. I rewatched Tony Richardson's 'A Taste of Honey' again which is a thought provoking and quite gritty story of a young girl growing up in Salford who falls pregnant by a sailor. The styling and rawness touched a nerve. Another film that influenced me was My Own Private Idaho. Also, memories of my childhood helped create a character in my head. I spent most of my childhood growing up on my grandmother's farm in Shropshire and during the second world war, much of the land surrounding it was used for military purposes, so there was an aerodrome and camp right next to the farm. I began to create this story in my head about A GI falling in love with a land girl and not wanting to go back to war, he goes AWOL and lives a very different life with his new love. His wardrobe is a mix of her father's country wardrobe and his own military garb, the textures and layers combine to help hide his identity. I was fascinated with this idea of layering."
As fashion consumers and obsessives, we rarely get the opportunity to see anything other than the finished look but as bloggers we are always interested to understand how the designer's sketches become reality. To help us see through the studio door and offer a real tease in to what AW12 has in store, I snapped away at Dalton's hand drawn sketches...
A selection of Dalton's technical drawings including fabric swatches.
"As I work heavily with a mill in Yorkshire who sponsor us continuously, we were able to pull on their fabrics a great deal for this season and they have a sister mill in Bradford who produce a lot of the military uniforms for a number of regiments globally and a lot of corporate wear. I was drawn to heavy military cloth but I have tried to mix it with knitwear including a very special cable knit, and more casual programmes including denim. Also, we had some really old vintage checked shirts and I was drawn to the idea of mixing old and new, so they would be one-off pieces that would be subtly different with their patchwork feel. With this particular collection there is a formal feel to it and we've used special, almost decadent pieces of cloth but I also wanted there to be a casual feel to it that feeds in to this country and workwear aesthetic. For example the chino fabric has been washed and distressed, also obsessed with using silesia which is common cotton more commonly used in pocketing detailing but we've used it as an outerwear fabric and of course there's quilting again and one of the key pieces is a biker jacket for which we are using Harris Tweed and sheet and fabrics. Hopefully you'll see the right balance at the show."
Lou Dalton on AW12
Today, as Lou Dalton sits in her studio, she is a designer at the forefront of London's ever developing moment. As London menswear has demanded an ever increasing presence at LFW and respect far beyond the capital, evolving from an afternoon in to a packed day of shows, presentations and installations,Dalton has matured in the spotlight and built a brand. Away from her pulse racing Salon shows, the label's success can be seen in its growing list of stockists that now includes the likes of Opening Ceremony and thecorner.com (from SS12) and lets not forget her designs taking centre stage down in Liberty's menswear basement. With the launch of London Collections: Men in June, 2012 should be a year to remember for British menswear and there can be little doubt that Dalton will craft a few notable memories this year and beyond.