Any doubters of the centuries old debate as to whether fashion is theatre, need look no further than creative director Jordan Dalah’s approach to his AAFW SS23 collection. His third look was a delicate silver silk organza dress filled with 200 pegs, dyed naturally by the sun to palette perfection. Only a true auteur would spend his days visiting family and friends to collect their old pegs; considerately bringing new ones “because no one wants to be without pegs” in order to meticulously build out the structural mechanism of a diaphanous piece to create a fresh execution of the volume for which the Dalah brand has become known.
“There’s a playful note but I want people to know it’s not just humour,’ said a casual and particularly relaxed Dalah at a studio visit just a couple of days out from his second ever show. “The silver organza (in the peg dress) is so beautiful, but I also wanted to build on the silhouette I developed. I guess I wanted to show my woman in a way I’ve not necessarily presented her before, so there was more concentration on the body and more of the person showing through the usual construction.”
While Dalah’s surreal, bold proportionally is ever-present throughout this entire collection, there is a distinctly new idea brought to this which he calls “utility’. It was immediately evident in the show space, which served more as an installation than a runway, with mega-watt lighting, electric blue flooring and a snaking front row made up of camping chairs. His high-volume soundtrack sent the same kind of message as it mega-mixed mod house and electro – the kind of set that starts at 3 am – with the hyperkinetic Scottish artist Sophie.
Dalah had prepared me earlier that while his signature historical reference point – and it is worth mentioning here this collection is without bustles – still exists, his inspiration was essentially the everyday objects in his orbit. “I have been fixated on things in my studio and objects in my world. Big umbrellas and random things like these camping chairs,” he says pointing to one. “I love the mechanism of the support structure, how the metal creates tension with the fabric and I thought why can’t I bring that kind of tone of say, an umbrella, to garments? I’m already known for padding, puff, wadding and stuffing but why not use these utilitarian objects to blend my world with the everyday? To bring a surreal nature to the collection but using the kind of gestural drama, and theatre, and softness to it as I always feel hard edged.”
While Dalah calls the result “utilitarian randomness” the 40 looks shown in fact played out a very strong narrative directed by the small details. Working with stylist and RUSSH fashion editor Charlotte Agnew who, in his words “just gets it”, his modern cast of models were more like thespians in hand-done duchess satin rosettas, delicate underwear separates, purple woollen socks, woven platform shoes with rose details, perfect sized polka dot and very, very nice wool.
The loudest accent to the collection was his ‘doorstopper’ dresses, built out with bonsai wire and foam – in particular a body-hugger filigree look developed for this collaboration with Glenfiddich and inspired by their Grand Couronne.
“I love that I am able to disrupt the space of whiskey and vibrating a new kind of nuance for Glenfiddich,” he says. “The way I have been working with them as a creative director has been really fluid and respectful and even with the jumper that was sent out with the invitations – I would never have one as a part of my collection – but I just love that I can do this in a fun way with Glenfiddich.”
See all the looks from Jordan Dalah's AAFW SS23 collection below.