There’s a reason why Lou Dalton makes such a perfect opening for the London Collections: Men, now for its 4th season in the running. Defined by palate-cleansing clarity, Dalton’s aesthetic weaves narratives in stripped-down, foundational menswear garments, perfectly embodying the piece that London is in the global fashion puzzle. The ruthless minimalism of her tailoring and rebellious English sportswear is offset by softer edges, fair isle knits and corduroys with that elusive British lived-in feel. It’s also very much about rootless, dislocated youth, conjuring the vast, often bleak landscapes of rural countryside; a signature Dalton theme that adds an almost mythological resonance to her coherent body of work. It’s the underside of Savile Row, and the young, raw face of British menswear.
Dalton looked back to her Shropshire roots for her AW14 collection, recalling the real working clothes worn by farmhands from her youth. “It’s a man I know well” she says of her sartorial character, equally comfortable at sporting bleached-out denims as he is in softened cords and mossy tweeds. As always, Dalton excelled in outerwear, introducing denim Western jackets and padded suede bombers with detachable shearling collars, and turning some of them inside out quite literally, with engineered paneling that usually appears on the inside of the coat stitched on the exterior. That technique of taking the bare skeleton of menswear construction and making it visible added a graphic sharpness and air of innocence to the utilitarian silhouettes, calling back to another one of the Dalton’s inspirations, that of documentary photographer’s Dorothea Lange’s striking Depression-era images for the Farm Security Administration. This raw and rough theme, however, was offset by a new cozy touch with Merino wool crew-neck series, light hounds-tooth jackets and bleached-out denims injecting a warmer streak into the brand’s DNA. Each look was finished pitch-perfectly with high-lacing boots in oxblood and black, result of Dalton’s continued collaboration with Grenson.
A prime storyteller of British fashion, as it is bred and brewed in rural folklore and youth cultures, Dalton’s vision is as clear and beautifully executed as ever. Get used to seeing her name on top of the bill for many menswear seasons to come.