The menswear designer talks exclusively to David Hellqvist about her boot collaboration and what inspired the design process
As one of London’s premium menswear designers, Lou Dalton is the act chosen to kick off London Collections: Men. The reason being Dalton’s consistent work on the male wardrobe, each and every season re-working and perfecting staple pieces into must-have garments based not on seasonal trends but the idea that a good jacket or coat, for example, should outlive fashion fads without ever lacking in style. Often looking to Britain for inspiration, either from an historic point of view, a geographical aspect or just as a means of domestic production, Lou Dalton has done more than many bigger British brands to fly the flag for the UK. Her AW13 collection, looking towards protective oilrig gear for inspiration, is no exception. And to hammer home the point, Dalton has developed her own workwear boot in collaboration with footwear brand Grenson.
David Hellqvist: How did you hook up with Grenson?
Lou Dalton: I have worked with Grenson over the last few seasons. They have been kind enough to have loan a shoe or a boot for the show, the last two seasons we’ve worked with Doc Martens and Solamen. After the SS13 went out, I had a conversation with Alison Hargreaves who heads up the PR for Grenson.
We discussed the possibilities of working together again but instead of loaning me an existing style I would design an actual boot that Grenson would produce. The idea of the collaboration was to take the Lou Dalton for Grenson boot to the market, it was very important to me that this was not just a PR exercise, but something that could be offered at retail.
David: What is it about them as a boot company you like?
Lou: They are such an amazing company to work with, so open to design, experimenting and thinking outside the box. Steeped in history and with an amazing archive to work from, it was a dream come true.
The factory in Northampton is a remarkable place, watching these guys construct elements of the boot in various stages is amazing, to have had a Lou Dalton boot produced here in the UK is remarkable.
David: Can you describe the boot…
Lou: I did a lot of research into traditional workwear footwear, hob nailed boots, acid free soles through to traditional clogs, wood cutting and fly fishing footwear as well as the classic Monkey Boot. I was clear in mind that the boot was to be different in style to that of what Grenson are known traditionally known for. The finished boot has a very strong workwear feel about it, with a robust acid free sole, a slight square toe, ladder lacing close together with an internal padding in and around the ankle.
David: Is it based on an existing model?
Lou: No, the last was an archive piece Grenson had, the sole used was also from another boot developed by Grenson. The boot was a mix of historical research, workwear classics and parts of the Grenson archive.
David: What was the idea behind the gold plate at the tip of the boot?
Lou: Whilst researching for the design of the boot, I came across a whole load of workwear boots, their main purpose was to give support in rough terrain, they had soles with metal clips attached to the boot, either on the sole or in and around the edge. It wasn’t possible for practical reasons for us to have plates of this sort attached to the base of the shoe however; we decided to add one single plate to the front of the boot, from the first proto we developed this has been dulled down a lot making the metal work sit well within the sole. Most footwear takes a lot of pressure at the front, this is seen as a support to the boot to try and help it stand the test of time…
David: In what way does it fit in with the AW13 collection?
Lou: The collection for AW13 took inspiration from the Film Local hero as well as the time I spent in Shetland: the hard terrain and landscape were key to the collection. Local Hero draws on the idea of an American oil baron wanting to buy up a remote Scottish village to put a great oil port in its place.
This reminds me of Shetland a great deal as I met my partner Justin in Shetland whilst I was there producing a knitwear range for a Japanese designer. Justin works for BP out of Shetland. Sullom Voe, the BP oil terminal on the island, was at one time the biggest oil port in Shetland. The protective clothing worn on and off the rig has inspired the collection along with the footwear.