"In Shropshire, where I grew up, there was an army camp near us," Lou Dalton recalled after her season-opening show at London's menswear collections. "Every season all these kids would turn up, and two years later they'd be gone." Dalton makes it a sort of mission to take the bully pulpit for the displaced and the rootless. It gives an odd, slightly mournful resonance to her collections. Last season she was fighting for the men threatened by the interests of ruthless business; today, taking up the cause of the lost boys of the armed forces, conscripted to roam. Here she drew on the signs and symbols of Royal Air Force pilots—the squadron codes painted on their planes, the aviators' watches that they wore, re-created with G-Shock—but turned them all inside out, often literally. Jackets were worn reversed, their insides printed with RAF insignias. They had a lived-in, fought-in patina, with their crumpled-looking fabrics and colors she called "tea-stained."
All this can feel like heavy weather for a collection based so strongly on sportswear: Bermudas, jean jackets, hooded sweatshirts (even if they're occasionally worn as gilets). It made you grateful and gladdened, much as her air force men would have been, for the pieces that gave a frisson of family and home, like an unexpectedly cozy series of jacquard popovers and shorts.