is actually short for Louise Dalton, but she likes that "Lou" could be a boy's name. "When I decided to call the collection Lou Dalton, I was quite adamant that Lou could be Lou Reed," she says. The menswear designer is new to OC this season and we're obsessed with her expert tailoring and skinhead ballerina aesthetic. See her silk bomber jackets and zippered pea coats in motion in behind-the-scenes images from her Spring/Summer 2012 show in London, and get to know Lou in our interview below.
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Alice Newell-Hanson: The inspiration for Spring/Summer 2012 is very Billy Elliot! How did it come together?
Louise Dalton: We were thinking about the miners’ strikes [in England, in the 80s] but we wanted to combine that with something more flamboyant and exotic. The sparkly T-shirts were a Swan Lake
reference—it was about escapism and taking something that's hard and depressing and turning it into something decadent and beautiful.
ANH: Were you looking at original images from the riots?
LD: I remember growing up during that time, but I also did re-watch Billy Elliot
, which is very much about that era and touches on Swan Lake
as well. I think that made it clearer, how you could draw together two extremes. But I didn't want to use early-80s silhouettes as a reference. I wanted to make it more contemporary and in keeping with the Lou Dalton aesthetic. So the silhouettes are quite slim, the shoulders are quite narrow, and the colors are clean.
ANH: How did you get your start in tailoring?
LD: I left school when I was 16 and enrolled in an apprenticeship with a bespoke tailor in Shropshire, a 15-minute cycle ride from my home. At that time, I'd never thought about fashion. I was only really exposed to traditional sportswear: shooting breeches and jackets, and brands like Purdy and Sons. Eventually, I realized that I wanted to make menswear, and that I would need to go back into education, so I ended up at the Royal College of Arts. But without having that time out and working for that company, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now. I still refer back to that traditional kind of tailored outfit, because that's the DNA of men's clothing.
ANH: Do you remember the first piece you made yourself?
LD: I'm not really a girly girl, I'm more masculine in terms of my personal style. But I had this really twee Laura Ashley fabric and I was determined to make it into a dress. I made a pattern and the guy I worked for allowed me to go in on the weekends to sew for myself. But I was so gutted because when I finally finished it, it was too small!
ANH: Do you wear any of your own pieces now?
LD: I'm obsessed with old men's dress shirts. I wear one of the shirts we made for the fall collection quite a lot. I also pick up men’s shirts from Turnbull & Asser—that's pretty much my staple wardrobe. When I have to look a bit glamorous, I have to think twice!
ANH: How do you imagine the style of the guy who's buying Lou Dalton?
LD: I've never really had a muse as such. I don't sit here and go over figures and pie charts and God knows what, but I do think that buyers like you guys help shape the collections. I'd like to think that a younger version of David Hockney or Vincent Cassel was buying Lou Dalton, but those are just dreams really. And, as much as I love Hockney, I’m sure he wouldn’t buy it unless I gave it to him!
ANH: Are all your pieces made in England?
LD: Everything is designed in London, and nearly all the manufacturing is done in the UK. We’re not really a big machine; manufacturing elsewhere would be very difficult for us to monitor. For the brand that I'm trying to build, and for it to have longevity, it's paramount that we maintain quality over quantity. The fabrics are made in England too. I was introduced to a mill many years ago, called Arthur Harrison, based in Yorkshire. I built an amazing friendship with them and, when I started Lou Dalton, they agreed to sponsor us continuously. It's probably the only decent mill left in the UK; they also sell to Dries Van Noten, Jil Sander, and Kenzo
. I’m very lucky because they don't work with anybody else at my level.
ANH: The clothes definitely have a heritage feel and I love that it's reflected in the fabrics as well.
LD: Absolutely. I totally get a kick out of things like that. They are very particular about what they do. It's almost like two nerds sitting around a table talking about cloth and manufacturing, so I can be there all day!
ANH: If you weren't doing that, what else would you be doing?
LD: Initially, I wanted to be a makeup artist because I used to love eyeshadow—I wore a lot in the late 90s! I used to work with Hamish Morrow for his shows. But I always say to my loved ones, "When I retire, I just want to turn to upholstery. I want a shed at the end of the garden where I can just cover things in nice, arts-and-craft fabrics.” I know it sounds silly, but that's basically what I'd like to do.
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