Exclusive: Lou Dallas Is Ready For Its Next Chapter

Exclusive: Lou Dallas Is Ready For Its Next Chapter

The designer behind the critically acclaimed brand reflects on career highs and lows ahead of her NYFW showing.

The designer behind the critically acclaimed brand reflects on career highs and lows ahead of her NYFW showing.

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

In the opening shot of Raffaella Hanley’s short film Earth’s Fantasy, shared exclusively with V, directed by Brett Milspaw for Hanley’s fashion line Lou Dallas, an incomplete highrise hovers over a nighttime rendezvous in the park between two friends, played by Hanley herself and model Sarah Abney. While the structure may seem in Death Star-esque opposition to the whimsical scene unfolding in the foreground, the building in fact became an inspiration for Hanley, who made the film while working on her SS19 collection. “At night [it] lit up and there were these pretty midnight blues, peaches and yellows,” Hanley told us. “There’s that blue in the movie, and I’m definitely using it in the upcoming collection.”

While it may directly figure into her new collection, which debuts tonight at Saint Marks Church, the urban-adjacent setting of the film also serves as a kind of metaphor for the evolution of the Lou Dallas brand. A graduate of RISD with a painting BFA, the New York native has used found materials and artisanal techniques like looming to create her crafty womenswear. But as she told us ahead of her third New York show, since re-launching her brand in 2017, she's ready to leave behind the trappings of the so-called “emerging designer,” and take her line to new heights.

Have you always found inspiration in architecture?

Yeah. I love to walk. That’s partially why I feel like I cannot leave New York City. And I like taking pictures of buildings. The building in the movie looks exactly like one I’ve been referencing for this show’s sense of color. It’s in Midtown, more near Javitz Center. I remember because I’m never in that part of town.

Why did you want to make the film?

I’m considering Earth’s Fantasy a capsule for Lou Dallas. It kind of floats between collections. I feel like everything I do is building upon the last thing I’ve done. I have the problem of always wanting to be busy so when I’m between shows I sometimes feel like I should be doing something.

Can you describe your look in the film?

I like that there’s extreme fantasy and then its pared down to just the t-shirt and stockings in the park. They were like two wigs on top of each other. And I had a wig and an insane hat on. So it was very Mad Hatter.

How do you describe your aesthetic?

I definitely am very concerned no matter what I do that there is an aesthetic you can attach to it. No matter if I have to use found materials or if I’m buying all the materials myself. And I’ll create like a packet that I kind of think of as the mood for it and it will have references, like a whole gamut. I obviously love to patch things together so it’ll never be this clean aesthetic but I think I just want it to feel really tight and cohesive within my world if that makes sense.

Is that what you generally aspire for? A more layered, eclectic mix?

I tried to pare this show, but it’ll still genuinely feels like my world. I think the last runway show I did… I had my own personal, ‘I could have done with this better’ moments. I’m trying, I’m hopefully, I’ve improved upon some things I think could have worked out better from the last show.

What made you decide to pare things down?

I think last year was the year I really pared everything down because I was focusing on really just being able to manage a show better.

What did you think you could have done better?

I’m the weirdest perfectionist; I live in chaos and yet I [identify as] a perfectionist. “Sod Walker,” which was last September, was complete chaos up until the models started walking. I think I ended up wanting to focus that the production ran smoothly for the next show, which was in February.

How did that show go, in your mind?

I mean, I really did like that show, but I think it was too easy for people to say, oh it’s one thing. So I just want to show another side so I can’t get pigeonholed into being like, ‘Oh it looks so Renaissance.’ Or like, she only can do… I don’t even know what. I think I just wanted more layers and accessories so I just tired to focus on that for the upcoming show.

You relaunched your brand in 2017. How has Lou Dallas evolved since then?

I think what happened in 2017 was that [I realized] to be a business you need a whole other side of your brain going. And I think before then, it was purely a creative endeavor. And to make this work, you really need to sell clothing. And I really have to make sure there’s a following and that people want to buy it and that I’m making something that is resonating and will have some place in this cultural web in the universe. So I’ve definitely been reading up on business and just sort of trying to figure out how to become a businesswoman. But it took a while and I would say that’s really only happening now.

Are there any milestones you would like to achieve in 2019?

I think I really want to scale it up, but in a genuine way. I want [the brand] to be very thoughtful, like how it started, and doesn’t get lost as it grows it into something bigger. And I know there’s always the potential for that to happen, and usually does. But I think, if I continue working with people I admire in the industry, while getting into more stores, there’s more of a shot of reaching people.

Credits: COVER IMAGE VIA VOGUE

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