A rag-tag collective of New York artists, designers and self-styled debutantes, Lou Dallas has adopted as its aesthetic a kind of zombie mish-mash of decadent style.
Throughout the course of the Ancien Régime in France, small, often anonymous leaflets were widely distributed amongst the Parisian public that laid out in scandalous detail the sexual forays and private indiscretions of notable French aristocrats and nobility. With titles like “The Fires of Sodom in the National Assembly,” “The Abbe Maury among the Girls,” and “The Secret Relations of the Queen with the Cardinal De Rohan…,”1 these leaflets (known as libelles) cast the French monarchy in an atmosphere of cataclysmic decadence; both pornography and shrewd political calculus, the sexual practices of the French elite were depicted within them as a maelstrom of financial excess and degenerate narcissism.
Sitting in the back of New York’s Ukrainian National Home in mid-September, images of these pamphlets flitted through my head while I sat waiting for the beginning of the Lou Dallas SS2017 fashion show, “Plutonian Tears.” A restaurant that I’ve frequented since I was a kid, it is usually filed with a cluster of geriatrics sitting in silent assent over a few bowls of borscht. Today, however, the space was instead filled with fashion photographers, journalists and half-drunk artists, all tired from the last few long days of steadily availing themselves of fashion week open bars. The space has a strong Eastern European pastoral atmosphere: chandeliers hang from the ceiling, the plaster molding vaguely reminiscent of a grimy feast hall at home in a dimly lit 18th-century period piece.
The lights turned on, and a series of figures clad in sweeping deconstructed garments descended into the room. Swarovski crystals encircled the different portals in the clothes’ open-ended construction, revealing shapes of the models’ nude flesh behind swinging tassels and frayed strings of errant fabric. As the figures paced through the space, the atmosphere felt like a kind of cybernetic reboot of the court of Versailles, some carnal VR simulation, and for a few moments, I managed to forget the incessant American political drama that had overwhelmed my life these past few months, and dove headfirst into an image of Rococo luxury.
A rag-tag collective of New York artists, designers and self-styled debutantes, Lou Dallas has adopted as its aesthetic a kind of zombie mish-mash of decadent style: bewigged cowboys, renaissance faire-goers and southern madams commingle in a Park Avenue apartment. Founded by artist Raffaella Hanley in 2013, the collective brings together a group of like-minded collaborators, many of whom attended RISD together, to wring out a singular aesthetic, one that happens to throw the gregarious imagery and brutish sexual atmosphere of the Trump era into sharp relief.
In active practice throughout the city, artists Elizabeth Englander, Sonya Dissin and Emma McMillan, as well as writer and sometimes producer for the line Georgia Ford, are a fixture of the shows and also regularly wear the clothes out, avatars for the line and its in-part collaborators. Hanley herself is a kind of physical embodiment of the line. Artist Andrew Lee Gonzalez helps produce the shows, designs the invitations and names them, while fellow RISD graduate Anna Pierce designs jewelry; her designs, done in collaboration with the line, compliment the clothes, as grommeted latex and hanging ribbons clasp around the models’ hands and necks, displaying an almost medical erotics.
1. Titles sourced from Robert Darnton and Daniel Roche, Revolution in Print: The Press in France, 1775-1800. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.
Photography by Oto Gillen
Hair: Sean Michael Bennett. Make-up: Zoe Kestan. Jewelry: Anna Pierce. Models: Emma McMillan, Elizabeth Englander, Kiki Turner
Lou Dallas is a fashion label founded in 2013 by artist Raffaella Hanley in New York.
Oto Gillen (American, b. 1984) is an artist who lives and works in New York. He has been selected to take part in the upcoming Whitney Biennial 2017, co-curated by Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks and on view from 17 March–11 June in New York.
Alexander Shulan is a writer and independent curator based in New York, where he is the founder of LOMEX. He is Associate Editor of KALEIDOSCOPE.