Representing the creative future

to Hire

Lottie Robinson is stitching worlds together

Fusing workwear and tailoring to paint a portrait of men

Menswear is far too concerned with the rules but that is exactly what appeals to Lottie Robinson. “Well, I love that they’re being broken,” the Westminster grad admits over Facetime. The typical introductory mumblings were interrupted by Cleo, her cat, strutting across the screen with a lingering curl to her tail, as if to vie for the designer’s attention while I stole her for an hour to talk beginnings, the A-Z of her graduate collection and what’s next.

“I have nothing particularly groundbreaking to say about my background,” Lottie modestly remarks. The Kingston-based menswear designer was never the type to fawn over the fashion glossies in an excitable little-leg-flutter, pour-your-heart-into-each-page type of way. In fact, fashion never really was on her bingo card, having planned to go to Liverpool to study Zoology. She couldn’t have taken a more drastic U-turn. Where the fledgling designer lacked confidence, her tutors motioned her to apply for an art foundation at Kingston, as she always had an affinity towards craft. Upon acceptance, she thought to herself, “Fine, I’ll do it”, which afforded her the virtue of no expectation and no pressure.

Lottie says that being surrounded by “people that really gave a shit” struck a chord with her. When it was time to choose a specialty, she picked fashion out of an artistic and tangible love for creating practical 3D work. “In all honesty,” she admits, “I wasn’t really overthinking it. Those around me spurred me on.”

Her approach is as poetic as it is a portrait of the people in her life. “I work from the person outwards, as opposed to the clothes inwards,” she tells me. Speaking about her usual process, she may take inspiration from an 80s office worker who’s doing 9-5, which leads her to buy an 80s double breasted jacket from a charity shop. “Using that on the stand and pulling it apart, I take what might be these quite mundane details; blowing them up, shrinking them down and turning them inside out.” It’s not so much the shape or silhouette that resonate with Lottie; it’s working with clothes and the properties it already has. Her tenderness for men’s tailoring is equally historical, “I really love the Georgian period and a bit later on the Dandy,” she gleamed.

“Men can be beautiful, delicate and chic. I want to honour the men that I love in my life.” – Lottie Robinson

This past season – perhaps more than others – the sentiment of women dressing women was tangible; think Chemena Kamali’s debut at Chloé. All of which make Robinson’s rationale behind menswear more intriguing. “Being a bit removed from it helps me understand the design better. Designing for someone that I don’t personally resonate with makes me more creative,” she says. Through this process, the ‘characters’ that she designs for come out of the woodwork. “Men can be beautiful, delicate and chic. I want to honour the men that I love in my life,” she says. “Looking at these characters, I love highlighting who they are through their clothes, their life and their history.” The designer honed these emotions, sharpening them into tactile tailoring on the BA Fashion Design at Westminster. “It was about learning the rules to break them uni,” she says, alluding to the practical training as well as fashion history.

“I got a new desire for workwear from Craig Green,.” – Lottie Robinson

“I got a new desire for workwear from Craig Green,” she says. “They love interesting fabrications and fabric sprayed with rubber and tin foil; it was very artistic.” Workwear was a key component of The Fine, Robinson’s graduate collection named after her late grandfather’s sailboat. “I loved who he was and I wanted to depict where he came from,” she says. The collection’s namesake was “a little small wooden, nothing grand, sailboat. Cute, honest. His surname, Gowan, which is my surname, means son of a blacksmith.” The designer patchworked a portrait of her grandfather by fusing elements of workwear with 80s tailoring, informed by his time studying philosophy, then as a careers officer. “I wanted to stick to organic fabrics,” she says. “I wanted to use pinstripe to reference office tailored attire, but also to really accentuate where things have been pulled and twisted; fastened and stretched against the clean-cut tailoring norms.”

“Scrunched up and damaged on the floor of GH Leathers,” Lottie sourced the leather for her collection. Yes, it was tattered and imperfect – “Which also made it cheaper because they obviously didn’t think there was much to it” – but it worked. “The contrast between really clean tailored vintage wool and super pulled rugged leather was really important,” she remarks. In her work, these elements were seamlessly negotiated into asymmetrical shirting and a sailor back jacket.

Thinking about the future, Lottie would like to work as part of a design team, but doesn’t expect a paint-by-numbers solution. “You leave [university] and you realise you’re begging the whole industry just to be heard,” she says. In the meantime, she’s polishing her craft as a tailor at SOJO