Altered State

Laura Dawson's neo-retro elements of style. By Erin Wylie
When asked what she would be doing if she wasn't designing, Laura Dawson rattles off a list that includes "political journalism, re-foresting Brooklyn, clubbing, and cultural anthropology." In fact, Dawson didn't set out for the rag trade, it was only after people kept trying to buy the clothes off her back and a friend made an appointment for her with Steven Alan (who snatched up her first season) that, she says, "I realized it was something I should pay attention to."
Although parts of her past read like Paper magazine—she's dressed Scissor Sisters and Brazilian Girls, may have single-handedly revived the mullet-hawk (currently, though, she sports gamine bangs, á la Audrey Hepburn), and hung out in her hometown of Cincinnati with quasi famous rappers like Dose One and Yoni Wolf—Dawson is not a one-trick hipster rehashing the trends of her youth. "Historicism is my arch enemy," she declares. "People have learned to reference ideas in terms of decades, which really messes things up in terms of allowing any new environments to develop."
In her own line, references do exist, but they are remade in Dawson's vision. "The fall collection is like a replica of London, but through my own lens, so everything comes out a bit altered." The colors are muted and the shapes—like the tulip-curves of the Djuna wrap dress—are at once futuristic and retro. More literal is the waxed cotton Una coat, which could be just the thing for London's perpetual drizzle.
For spring, Dawson brightened things up. "So much in the recent past has roots in Bauhaus and its stark order, so I think quirkiness and nonsense are good elements to work with." Non sequitur details—a palette inspired by childhood hard candies and a radio waves pattern first glimpsed on the side of a beat-up van—are added to more sophisticated shapes: elegantly cut wide-leg trousers, a cropped jacket with lantern sleeves, and a swing top with triangular appliqués backed by delicate Swiss cotton tulle.
"I think the time is ripe for regime change," says Dawson, and though it's hard to tell which of her passions she's referring to, it's harder not to agree with her.
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Laura Dawson's neo-retro elements of style.

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