Monday 31 December 2012

Inspired... Lou Dalton AW13

Since launching her own line in 2005, Lou Dalton has refined a well crafted reputation for rebellious English sportswear with a keen eye for and attention to detail whilst establishing herself as the real shining starlet of British Menswear. As London menswear has demanded an ever increasing presence at LFW and respect far beyond the perimeter of the capital, evolving from an afternoon in to three full days of shows, presentations, previews, installations and exhibitions under the umbrella of London Collections: Men, Dalton has matured in the spotlight, built a brand and helped pave the way forward. 

One week today, all eyes will be on the blossoming design talent once more as she opens the sophomore edition of London Collections: Men. Having had a sneak preview of the collection which includes an exciting shoe collaboration, tactile knitwear and soft tailoring to obsess over and further evolved signatures,  I'm certain she will take more confident and assured steps forward, beckoning the rest of London menswear to do the same. As a little teaser to what Dalton will unveil in seven days, we sit down with the designer to talk through the narrative and influences behind the season. Sitting in her East London studio I was quickly transported six hundred odd miles to the coastlines of Shetland as the designer excitedly talked me through her mood board. Escape with us...

"This season I returned to one of my favourite films, Local Hero. I had watched it a while back but shortly after showing Spring/Summer 2013, my partner Justin was away and I rummaged through all of my old DVDs and found it again along with Ryan's Daughter. I have referenced Ryan Daughter to a small extent, there's just one scene from the film where the freedom fighters are on the beaches pulling in the illegal arms and they're wearing these oil skins in the pouring rain and I was drawn to the scene's rawness and how dark it was, in particular the Irish terrain and the backdrop that it is set against. The small village that the film is set shares characteristics to that of Shetland as captured in Bill Forsyth's feature. For me, Local Hero is one of the best films that I've ever seen, set in a place that I have such fond personal memories of. I met Justin in Shetland over nine years ago and I spent three years commuting back and forth from the area during the early years of our relationship. It it is quite simply one of the most amazing places that I've been to. I think Laurence Ellis' film (that he shot for my autumn/winter 2010 collection) captures the essence of how Shetland is, it's this open, amazing, wild place but it is so warm and welcoming. I absolutely loved spending time there and I have this crazy dream of owning a croft at some point. It will always be an inspiring place to me.

When I watched Local Hero again with Burt Lancaster playing a Texan oil worker who goes out to this rural town in the Scottish highlands with the desire to build a whopping big oil rig but soon falls in love with the special place. Theoretically, that's what happened to Shetland. At one point, it was the biggest oil port in Europe. I latched on to this development in a sense but it had much more to do with the characters, the terrain, the rawness and everything about the area. I loved everything about the film and it reminded me about my own experiences. I started pulling references from there, from utility and work wear after looking at the boy on the rig, the city boy in the country feel influenced the tailoring and there's a particular fabric that we've pulled from an Italian mill that reminds me of the flock and rawness of the sheep whilst the knitwear takes inspiration from the identification markings on the sheep which has this form of branding. 

I know that when I talk about being inspired by Shetland, people will think "oh, this is Lou being right country, a heritage feel' and there might be an element of that but once you see the collection, you'll see that there's much more to it than that. This particular collection feels even more personal whilst the fit and shapes are very much from spring/summer. I want the guy that is buying Lou Dalton to feel confident and trust in the continuation from season to season..."

Lou Dalton_AW13_Local Hero - Movie Poster
Lou Dalton_AW13_Ryan's Daughter_Storm
Snapshots of Lou Dalton's mood board for AW13.

"I do feel the pressure of showing first (at London Collections: Men). Everyone has been so supportive and I never do anything half heartedly. This collection means an awful lot and there's shedloads of work still to do. I won't settle until it is all done, to the level that I want it to be at. I said it to Charlie Porter previously but if I could get the label the point of being a self financed menswear designer from the UK that can compete with those big boys then that would be a massive achievement. It's unchartered territory. I think the label is at the point at which it could soar to the next level or stagnate and I desperately want it to fly on. I feel as though I've pushed myself harder than ever for this collection and we've also been pushing at the same time with production of Spring/Summer 13 which was the largest that it has ever been. It'll be quite special if I pull everything off."

I have every confidence that she will. Long may London menswear follow the lead of Lou Dalton. Here's to London Collections: Men and beyond.

Friday 28 December 2012

All because the man loved...

"We wanted to look at an iconic figure that had a nostalgic retro feeling, that wasn't James bond but had a similar feeling, sensibility and nature. The Milk Tray man was a character that was instantaneously recognisable yet shrouded in mystery and so we wanted to build, update and evolve this character that was assumed rather than known," excitedly purred Amber Siegel as she introduced the autumn/winter 2012 collection of Baartmans & Siegel back in March. From Jules Verne to Blade Runner's Deckard, the design duo have revelled in exploring a character created and established in popular culture and last season they focused their refined menswear eye on the late 1970’s British Menswear and cinema. Resting on Cadbury's iconic Milk-Tray man, his sartorial style and air of mystery provided a sense of playful indulgence, romance and adventure to the accomplished collection. They undoubtedly built, updated and evolved the character and dressed him accordingly in a wardrobe of lux tailored sportswear in a rich and inviting spectrum of blues. It was a coming of age season for the talented twosome. It was one of those collections that left my heart racing, my mind wandering and my wardrobe aching for additions.

After I calmed down, I picked up a few pieces. To combat the blanket of grey drizzle that has refused to leave London for the last few weeks and subconsciously inspired by Grace Coddington's i-D cover, I've been wearing the below coat continuously. All because the man loved... 

The coat by Baartmans & Siegel worn with shirt by Patrik Ervell, scarf by A Long Time Gone picked up at Anthem, sweatshirt by Christopher Shannon, trousers by Stephan Schneider, socks by Ayame and trainers by Missoni x Converse.

Monday 24 December 2012

Inspired... Kit Neale AW13

"Fashion East Installations give the newest of the new in London menswear the chance to prove their worth in a group show of delicious controlled anarchy," proclaims Charlie Porter in the recent press release for autumn/winter 2013. Ever since they were introduced to the London fashion week schedule back in 2009, I've excitedly bounced from room to room inside its various incarnations uncovering the beautiful alongside the wonderful and even the unusual at every opportunity. The platform provides discovery at every turn for us whilst offering invaluable exposure for the designers themselves and often acts as a springboard for them. Nothing quite represents the diversity of London menswear design talent quite like the Fashion East Menswear Installations. Returning to the impressive and ornate Georgian townhouse in the heart of St. James’s alongside Meadham Kirchhoff, Bobby Abley, Joseph Turvey, Nasir Mazhar and Maarten van der Horst, Kit Neale will once again be a noisy neighbour to Buckingham Palace for the day.

Ever since I first stepped in to Kit Neale's dazzlingly printed world,  a cultural kaleidoscope that reimagined suburban and multicultural Britain, I've been eager to return. Despite being just over two weeks away from London Collections: Men, I couldn't resist popping by his new showroom cross studio located just off Shoreditch High Street for a sneak peek at how the new season is taking shape. Moving on from his Dad's allotment and the ever eccentric great British seaside, the emerging sartorial chronicler of our age looks to his design heroes and ends up sozzled in his local. Reviving him with the rustling of a bag of pork scratchings, Kit Neale talks us through his mood board and allows us to take a sip from his heady cocktail of influences...

"The real starting point was looking at three of my design heroes of Michael Clark, Ray Petri and Ernő Goldfinger. I'm always researching them. I'm obsessed. Ray Petri's 'Buffalo' book has pride of place in the studio, it's our bible and I always look through it and I know many other labels look to it as well. I'm really drawn to those Buffalo days and often look through my old issues of The Face and Arena Homme Plus. I think Petri, Goldfinder and Clark all have a level of influence over or appear in some way in every season but I wanted to delve a little deeper and fuse all three in to this collection but it wasn't possible to look at all three due to this being such a short season so I chose to focus on Clark. It's been a bit tight this season and this shows in the fact that the prints have just come back, the Friday before Christmas but I'm really pleased with them.

There's a film that Michael Clarke did with Leigh Bowery called Hail The New Puritan. It's a fake documentary, a mix of narrative, performance and fantasy. If you've not seen it, you really should watch it on youtube. The vivid colours of the film really inspired the prints for this season. There's one particular scene where they are in a typical British, slightly run down pub and the contrast and clash with these colourful characters is so intriguing. It led me to think about the role of the pub in society, they're a place where all types congregate and it also directed me to all of the pop references. I looked at so many names, signs and details of pubs but in the end we concentrated on The White Polar Bear and The Queen's Head. The prints combine the pub detailing with the vivid colours of the film and the movements of Michael's Clark's dance."

A few snapshots peering in to Kit Neale's mind.

Much like looking at Martin Parr's photography which can at first appear exaggerated, Kit Neale's plentiful prints fuse the familiar with the strange, the mundane with the extraordinary. Entering his presentation space last season I was instantly transported back home to the sandy beach of Margate and I'm looking forward to going off on a jaunt to one of the designer's locals to share a pint with his design heroes. What's your poison?

Thursday 20 December 2012

Inspired... Erïk Bjerkesjö AW13

Back in January my imagination was ignited by the discovery of Erïk Bjerkesjö. It was impossible not to fall for the charms of his debut, an assortment of exquisite handmade treasures, quintessentially beautiful with an added dash of unmistakable traditional mastery. Showcased as part of the inaugural Polimoda Future Lab at Pitti Uomo 81, the design talent sparkled in the splendour of Villa Favard. Considered yet exciting, classic yet modern, the remarkably accomplished collection told the personal and professional story that began in Sweden and grew up amidst the great craft traditions of Italy and Tuscany. Next month, having been awarded Who is On Next? Pitti Uomo, the designer returns to Florence as the New Performer to tell the next chapter in his blossoming tale.

"The starting point for me is always the search for fabric and materials," explains Bjerkesjö as he travels across a snow covered Swedish country side by train. "I always feel inspired when I visit the shoemakers in Tuscany. From the leather that they use and the materials they have lying around, the machines to the way they dress." His enthusiasm is infectious. As the snow continued to fall outside, the designer daydreamed about his inspiration and offered a teasing narration of what to expect in a few weeks time...

When I grew up in Sweden I always looked for real and authentic things, from music scenes to art and architecture to food. I get the same feeling living and working in Tuscany, the attitude towards making something real, based on tradition. This season I wanted to create something that is really close to my heart. It is a warm collection that takes clear inspiration from Gotland, the island that I grew up in outside Stockholm. It is also the same island Ingmar Bergman lived on. I opted to name the collection 'L'île' which means the island. 

"This season the garments are made to complete the hand made shoes. Starting from this season I have been working with tailors that also work with Ann Demeulemeester and Valentino, which is just the perfect combination because my aesthetics are far from both but they understand both sides, for me, that is going in another direction. It is basically the same thing with my shoemakers, they are making more classic men's shoes, and I am working with them, putting my own aesthetics in to the construction. But most important, they know about quality and structure, which for me is what I always want to work with. But also, I am making all knitwear and some leather and stone parts made in Gotland, because that island as Tuscany has it's own tradition and special materials they are experts in and craftsmanship and way of work that they are unique within.

The collection is what I picture Marcel Duchamp would have worn if he were alive today. Something with both structure and warmth. Last season (AW12) was my first real collection and I made it over two years whilst I launched my footwear, and it was inspired by the shoemakers, what they wear and how they look. It was washed with shoe-polish, ink and waxed, and the collection can be worn when you are making shoes. This collection is more about the craftsmen of the Island. It's not just rooted in the shoemakers but looks to writers and painters, and explores how Ingmar Bergman lived and look on the island. It is kind of what I have been wanting to present for years. To be the New Performer at Pitti Immagine Uomo 83 is a great honour and to present the collection at Villa Favard just makes perfect sense...

Erik Bjerkesjo SOLE AW13
Handwoven yarn, made by Erïk and his Mother
Snapshots of Erïk Bjerkesjö's inspirations, evolution from last season and a peek at AW13 taking shape.

Every time that I've spoken to Erïk Bjerkesjö, his enthusiasm, interest and love for the individuals that combine to realise his handmade shoes and their complimentary wardrobe, is contagious and his longing to learn, develop and evolve in inspiring. Ever keen to develop these relationships, I end our conversation by asking how has they've developed since we last spoke.

"A great deal. I have made my things by myself, by hand, together with them and they have also made different parts that I was not allowed to work with. Today I have taken a step closer with them, and I am working more naturally and I feel more secure with the whole process. But they still keep me inspired, their way of life and knowledge, the way they dress while working and the attitude toward fashion today and yesterday, it's healthy for me. It sometimes feels like you're at your grandparents home and they are recommending me reading a special book, and when I do it, I feel my knowledge grow and I find a new direction." 

Bjerkesjö's hunger to develop, hone and further traditions appears insatiable. I cannot wait to watch as this hungry talent continues to craft his modern classics.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Inspired... William Richard Green AW13

As one of the designers headlining a new era in British menswear, William Richard Green continues to fuse his British influences with a willingness to celebrate the diversity amongst the well sourced manufacturers and suppliers of these rich isles. Over the last few seasons, each collection has showcased the craftsmanship of home grown British manufacturing whilst feeling anything but heritage. As so many have talked up the 'British-ness' of their products, Green has quietly and assuredly gone about his business of building relations with suppliers and crafting pieces that are decidedly British, both inside and out. "One of my points is that the collections are British made and predominantly use British fabric. Over the life of the label, I've amassed an extended family with the guys in Nottingham and beyond but working to the deadlines of the fashion calendar can be testing. They're all characters. I love spending time with them. I'd much rather visit them than go to your typical fashion party," confirms the designer before taking a sip of his early morning coffee.

For Spring/Summer 2013, the design talent celebrated 'Home' and explored the concept of Britishness, for Autumn/Winter 13 Green sartorially examines family. From dysfunctional households to his relationship with his suppliers to the points gangs, Green pores over and plays with ideas and dynamics of family. Before leaving his Old Street base for a day at the studio, the designer talks us through his collection of research images...

"I began thinking about odd family dynamics. My parents are in the process of deciding whether or not they want to sell the family home and move to Cornwall and there's a strange mood that's developed. My family are so close and it's full of real characters. I started by looking at Moonrise Kingdom. I don't tend to look at such obvious references but I just love how Wes Anderson's always creates these intriguing family set ups. His parents divorced at eight and I think that's one of the reason why, in every one of his films from The Royal Tenenbaums to the Life Aquatic, there's this idea of separation and dysfunctional love. I became obsessed at looking at family portraits, especially the awkward ones. I was looking at how people identify themselves through repetition and then searching for the odd bit of individuality and point of difference. 

In the end, I've accumulated a vast number of images that all have an association with each other through pattern and clothing. From the uniforms of gangs to football kits that were ridiculed by friends to Lucky Luke. I've always loved Lucky Luke. Whilst I was at Central Saint Martins, I did a big project around it. I just love how clumsy the lines are and how graphic it is.

I'm really looking forward to showing this season. I'm in the process of working on a film with Morgan O'Donovan that will help tell the story of the different characters in the collection. As long as the garments come back from the factories in time, we'll be shooting between Christmas and New Year in the countryside. Despite the early start for this season I'm prepared and just waiting on production."


A snapshot of William Richard Green's visual research for AW13.


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