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Interview: Lola Chatterton

published on 2 October 2014

Stylist and Lula fashion editor Lola Chatterton explains her feminine, almost cartoonish look to Lou Stoppard.

Stylist and Lula fashion editor Lola Chatterton explains her feminine, almost cartoonish look to Lou Stoppard.

Lou Stoppard: Why is the super girly look being championed so heavily at the moment?

Lola Chatterton: I guess there are loads of influences - loads of the designers at the moment are pushing it and it's all on the catwalk – see Meadham Kirchhoff, Ryan Lo, Simone Rocha. So I think that has a massive influence on everything else. But I think that it's kind of the generation at the moment, the people who are wearing it (like myself and Louby Mcloughlin and Ryan Lo), we all grew up in the nineties and we have references like Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani, the Spice Girls, and I'm sure it all comes from that. But I think the internet, as well, is an influence. Ten years ago you couldn't really see how other countries were dressing, but now I feel like there are blogs everywhere, you see Harajuku girls and Kawaii - they're all over the internet and I feel like that has quite an influence as well.

LS: It feels on one hand that the style is quite retro, but I wonder if you think it wouldn't have had the current popularity without the internet because, as you said, people now have access to things like images of people from other countries. So they can look at these and share them, but they also have a platform to share things like old Clueless pictures.

LC: I just feel like my personal style has evolved a lot from that nostalgia and from looking at things. I've just got a folder on my computer full of references and it's literally just Clueless pictures, old Courtney Love, old Kate Moss, just old stuff like that. I still feel like it would've happened, but maybe it wouldn’t have spread so quickly and wouldn’t have happened so much. I'm not sure.

LS: It's interesting because people are sometimes quite disparaging about that internet culture, this idea of being able to draw references from everywhere - critics say, 'Oh people have so many references but none of it's authentic, they're just pulling things from everywhere willy nilly.' Do you find that, or do you think that's quite a simplistic way of looking at things?

LC: I don’t know – I've found that freedom useful. I pull from everywhere. So I don't just pull from the internet, I pull from old magazines and books and stuff as well.

If people have commented they say that I'm brave. I get that quite a lot, that I'm brave dressing this way. It’s bold, after all.

LS: It's interesting because you said your style has evolved a bit. Have you always gravitated towards that aesthetic? Is it a way that you've always dressed?

LC: Obviously with fashion changing I've gone through different trends and stuff; I had a phase of dressing all in black and then I had a phase of being really sporty when I was like nine or something! But I feel like I have always had quite a girly aesthetic, and I've always been drawn to pink and glitter. When I was little I would wear like proper princess dresses and my sister was a proper tomboy, I was really not into that. I feel like it's just sort of developed as I've got older and more found my own personal style. Thinking about it, I've always been super girly.

LS: Do you notice how other people respond to you? Whether it's men or other women, do people look at you and assume things about your personality because of it? Do people ever presume, I don't know, that you're less intelligent or less ambitious or less self-sufficient, because of having an aesthetic that is so feminine?

LC: If people have commented they say that I'm brave. I get that quite a lot, that I'm brave dressing this way. It’s bold, after all.

LS: Brave is quite an interesting word for it because I do feel like people often presume that dressing in a feminine way is kind of pandering to men? But what I feel is interesting about the way you or someone like Louby Mcloughlin do it is how it’s almost quite confrontational, it’s really putting it in people's faces. There's something quite subversive and aggressive about that. Do you kind of like that, kind of throwing femininity back in people's faces, or are you literally just movitated by the aesthetic appeal?

LC: I think it's a mix of both. I feel like it is quite interesting to just be like, 'whatever, this is how I dress.' And I feel like maybe it's a bit more confident as well to be like that. When I first had coloured hair and stuff I kind of didn’t care but at the same time if I went to West London I'd be like, 'Oh everyone is staring at me, it's so annoying,' but now I just couldn't care less.

LS: So I guess there's something quite grounding about it, it teaches you to just think about yourself instead of trying to fit into an expectation of how women should dress. To me it's kind of subverting power-dressing in a way, this idea that women have to look serious and almost masculine to be strong.

LC: Yeah I totally agree, you don't have to dress like a man, and it's really nice to be able to work in a job where you don’t have to wear a suit. Dressing smart is something I've always dreaded, I wouldn't know how to do that and it's nice to not have to conform to that and just be super creative and dress how I want.

LS: You mentioned people used to stare a bit if you went certain places - do people ever respond in a shocked way, do you ever get comments if you're out in public?

LC: I get stares a lot, not so much comments. I get it especially in more conservative areas or from old people - I get quite a few shocked stares. Children often stare but in a really different way, like, 'wow!'

LS: You mentioned some of your references and I know personally how much you love Meadham Kirchhoff, but tell me about some of the brands that you really gravitate towards. Do you tend to buy contemporary fashion, do you get vintage stuff - how does it work for you?

LC: I get a lot of vintage pieces, my wardrobe is quite full of vintage pieces. I've got lots of Meadham. I love Ryan Lo and Ashley Williams as well. I also love Claire Barrow, she painted me an amazing jacket years ago with the Spice Girls on the back.

Scene from Lola Chatterton's London bedroom

LS: I’m interested in the 'girl power' roots of it, this idea of the Spice Girls. I think there's a real intelligent wit to what they do and I wondered if that ever played into it for you - dressing in a way that’s almost quite funny? I think that’s what a lot of the designers do, especially Ashley Williams - there’s always that kind of cheekiness to her.

LC: Yeah yeah yeah! I totally appreciate that and think that way. Some of the things I buy I just think 'LOL'. I think I do kind of add ridiculous, funny things to my look.

LS: I guess that comes back to this idea of not having to conform?

LC: Yes.

LS: The look seems like something that feels quite innate to you – something that you’ve always felt very comfortable dressing like. But it does feel like it's become a trend in some ways - now you see Topshop and high street shops really pushing that look. Do you find it odd or frustrating or uncomfortable to see it presented as a trend? Or do you quite like it that other people have embraced that look?

LC: I’ve not really thought about it before. It is kind of annoying when it's done on the high street and everyone’s looking the same, because then it’s kind of not your own thing anymore.

LS: And it seems like a lot of the basis for you is kind of to do with individuality and embracing who you are, and when it becomes a trend it's kind of the opposite to that.

LC: Yeah – it's kind of dead.

LS: When you see it becoming a trend, when you see young girls wearing it or people sort of picking up pieces within that kind of look from places like Topshop or whatever - do you worry that they don’t get all the references or connotations behind it, whether it is Clueless or the Spice Girls or Riot grrrl or whatever? Do you ever look at them and worry that they’re not dressing in a way that’s empowering or considered, they're just picking up on a trend but they actually look quite regressive? Because I think there is an element where if the trend is not worn in a considered way, it can look just like girls are dressing as little sex objects, with all the fluff and the pink.

LC: I don’t think I've ever really thought about it before but yeah, I guess so. It can kind of be taken in a completely wrong way.

LS: Do you think about wanting to appeal to men? You haven’t mentioned that at all - it doesn’t seem like something that even enters your head; trying to look 'hot' or 'cute'?

LC: I feel like it's completely not for men. If they like me then they like me, but I just think about my own style.

LC: That's what's interesting about those girls who perhaps don't wear it in such an authentic way as you do, because really quickly it can look just like they’re kind of just dressing up for a boy.

LC: I completely know what you mean - stripper heels and stuff like that.

LS: It’s such a fine line.

LC: Yes, totally – it's true. It's super fine between looking like a hooker or looking 'cool' and in control.

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