Groove Collective

The five members of Loden Dager discover a smarter middle ground in menswear.
by Emily Basenberg
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Sitting with Oliver Helden and Paul Marlow, the designers of the menswear line Loden Dager, one is easily charmed by the collaborative spirit and obvious enthusiasm that resonates when they discuss their mutual inspirations, in particular films like Purple Noon, The Samurai, and The Panic in Needle Park. They take pleasure in less obvious cinematic details such as Al Pacino's sweater and how it looks after consecutive wearings. "I'm impressed when Paul thinks of something I didn't notice," says Oliver in response to his partner's sharp eye.
The designers tell us the idea to create Loden Dager emerged over lunch while the two were working together at Marc by Marc Jacobs. Within 24 hours, a financial backer was found, Melissa Vail, who now handles the business side of the 1-year-old company. Their friend Matthew Sandager, a photographer and graphics expert, joined soon thereafter to handle the visual packaging. And the team's fifth partner, Alexander Galan, came on board to oversee the label's public relations. Uniting all five members, the name Loden Dager is a mix of the partners' surnames.
Together, the team captures a refinement in men's everyday clothing, a sharp sensibility that seems to have been missing; it is not derivative, nor does it exhibit the too-literal interpretations many upstarts succumb to. They admire Dries Van Noten because "he engulfs an idea; twists it and turns it on itself," says Paul. The point of reference for spring 2007 is the Parisian student protests of 1968, in particular, the fact that student, worker, and the everyman marched together. "We want to create staple pieces you would pick up and wear all the time," Oliver says. In fact, there is a subtlety and ease to the clothes one could imagine appealing to a range of gentlemen, old and young.
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The real magic of Loden Dager lies in the garments' details, especially because they are entirely functional and integral to the construction of a piece. "We are willing to go through the headache of convincing people to produce these clothes," Oliver says. A merino wool sweater sleeve has a set-in front with a raglan back, a technique common in 1950s sportswear. The pocket of an army green seersucker parka contains an extra insert along the top of the pouch to prevent water from seeping in. This feature came from a standard issue military piece also from the '50s. A gusset on the sleeve hem ensures a tighter closure, smoother line, and added warmth to boot. Even the label's striped shirts are special: Collars are bias-cut and created from one continuous piece of fabric, the stripes running in sync with the pattern on the body of the shirt.
Color is another signature of the label's collection. Moody blues and earthy greens are staples, and all pieces are garment-dyed at a special facility using exclusively created shades. Unlike most newly launched lines, every single sample from the first collection was sold and produced (Barneys New York, Odin, and Ron Herman all picked it up).
The spring 2007 presentation took place at the club Sol in Chelsea, with models slightly elevated on black boxes, drinks sometimes in hand as they joked and interacted with the crowd. The label's enthusiastic reception seemed to be unanimous between men, women, and models, and the team experienced a quiet confirmation that their aim to hit a more refined middle ground in menswear might be a good one. "We make a genuine effort to create throw-on clothes that we love," explains Oliver. And it looks like they won't be the only ones.
Loden Dager is available in New York at Odin, in Los Angeles at Ron Herman, and in Chicago at Hejfina. For more information, go to www.lodendager.com.
The five members of Loden Dager discover a smarter middle ground in menswear.
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