Not that her wide-leg, tailored shorts have anything ordinary and watered-down about them. Part throwback to World War II or scout uniform, their voluminous shape, fitted into the waist, makes a fashion statement that may have women trekking to her door for the first time. Post-gender clothing built to last—and possibly to share—is part of the path toward purposeful sustainability that young British designers were setting out on long before the pandemic hit.
Purpose in the fashion industry took on another meaning during the early months of lockdown—it became about saving lives. Dalton was one of British fashion’s first responders, joining up as she did to the Emergency Designer Network formed by her London sister-designers Phoebe English, Holly Fulton, and Bethany Williams to make and distribute PPE to hospitals and frontline workers. Thanks to these women’s voluntary initiative, uncounted numbers of people in the U.K. were protected from COVID-19 when Boris Johnson’s government failed to do so. For Dalton, it created an even stronger bond with British factories and clothing workers, many of whom also got behind the effort.
So this collection represents her close-knit ties with “quality manufacturers,” like John Smedley in Derbyshire, who has been making her fine-gauge knitwear since the factory opened in 1784. “I’ve been collaborating with them for five years. Long may it last!” she laughs. In reinterpreting classic polo shirts or sweaters in a kind of animal-print, camo pattern, her intention is to make sure that skilled British garment workers weather the pandemic storm, as well as kit out the modern man attractively. “There’s been a sense of unity, a coming-together to support one another. Regardless of how big or how small your business is, we are as one, and we will get through this together,” she says, adding, “That has very much been the response from the manufacturers I collaborate with. So hopefully, what we’re doing will be enticing enough to bring boys to the door.”
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