Lou Dalton’s forte is always the story on which her collections are built. AW20 referenced her father’s Teddy Boy wardrobe of his youth and felt like a love-letter to the British Isles – from tartan coats to fair isle knits, it was patriotic to the last stitch. Unsurprising, seeing as Dalton chose to join forces with two of Britain’s greatest style exports: Derbyshire knitwear label John Smedley – which has been in the woollens game since 1784 – and Gloverall, the creator of the iconic duffle coat, favoured by Second World War Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery. Dalton’s fresh take on raglan-sleeve overcoats with reversible hoods married style with function. Ombre mohair, jacquard lambswool and fine-gauge merino knits rounded off the collection with a visually appealing and winter-appropriate note.
Throughout his career, Turkish-Cypriot-born Brit Hussein Chalayan has looked to indigenous cultures for inspiration. For AW20, he turned his creative eye towards Australia and the Orient, utilising patterns of Aboriginal folk songs in fabrics, while drop-shouldered felted-wool coats and capacious trousers took their form from ceremonial and agricultural apparel of the Far East.
The collection’s structured tailoring owed more to sculptural architecture than to traditional draping – which Chalayan refers to as ‘framing’ – a technique that has won the designer industry-wide acclaim since the early ‘90s. Exaggerated-pleat trousers and oversized blazers imparted a sense of comfort and fluidity. Men sick of squeezing themselves into their slim-cut two-pieces on weekdays are sure to heave a sigh of relief.
Band of Outsiders
Designer Angelo Van Mol has the rare gift of crafting attire that is eclectic yet entirely wearable. Van Mol’s AW20 offering referenced his love of the great outdoors, and, specifically, memories of childhood trips to the forest with friends. The message seemed clear: in the age of climate change, appreciate what you have around you and make the most of it. Cagoules, shirts and chinos – in bold shades which the brand describes as ‘campfire red’ and ‘canoe yellow’ – were given a tongue-in-cheek touch with map sketches and typographic slogans like ‘follow the path that leads astray’. Rugged, lumberjack check overshirts had a tailored polish while neckerchiefs were tied in a Baden-Powell Scout-like fashion. Given that Britain is the most nostalgic nation in the world, it seems apt that the Californian-founded label chose to make London its creative hub.
Khalid Qasimi, who passed away in July 2019, was a designer of great promise. This collection, his last before his twin sister took the reins, felt particularly poignant for fans of his artful, forward-thinking reworks of tried and tested classics. For his swansong, he referenced the land of his birth, the United Arab Emirates, with the Qasimi man envisioned as an urban nomad. But make no mistake, there wasn’t a dishdasha in sight.
His homeland was evident in the colour palette, which ranged from rich turmeric and myrrh, to arabica and Scarab-beetle black – a homage to the nomadic tribes and desert landscape. Louche, velvet suiting was cut with flair and had more in common with ’70s Mick Jagger than traditional Emirate garb. Handicraft accessories, homespun knits and abstract camouflage prints also maintained a subtle balance between the old Middle East and the 21st century.
Back when designers were still cutting their (skinny) suits close to the bone, it’s fair to say that E. Tautz’s Patrick Grant did much to bring oversized pattern cutting back to the British design table. As a tall, broad guy himself, he appreciates that a skin-tight fit isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The oversized, double-breasted blazers he’s long championed were reinterpreted in aubergine and British heritage checks and were a considerable upgrade from the starchy pinstriped numbers of old. As were the voluminous pleated trousers which were a modern take on the slacks favoured by dandies and students of the ’20s. And there was a strong message: 50 per cent of the collection was crafted from repurposed fabrics deposited in recycling banks, with the rest sourced from British mills to support home-grown manufacturers. Grant’s mantra is “buy less, buy well, make do and mend” – a tune we can all hum along to.