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“For me, Lyle & Scott was this cult, hot thing”

Jonathan Saunders talks shit music, Scottish Independence and his vivid Lyle & Scott collaboration

There are some collaborations that just make sense, and Jonathan Saunders teaming up with Scottish knitwear maestros Lyle & Scott for a collection of clashing diamond patterns and bright polka dots is definitely one of them. Aside from the obvious Scottish connection, Saunders’ deft ways with striking, graphic knitwear lend themselves brilliantly to the 140-year-old brand’s colourful argyle and golf heritage. We caught up with Jonathan Saunders, while he was having a celebratory Guinness, for a chat about his thoughts behind the 26-piece capsule collection which showed at LC:M alongside his own AW14 menswear. 

Dazed Digital: You’ve talked about how the colours in the collaboration are quite ‘garish’ and ‘hideous’. Were the 80s an inspiration?

Jonathan Saunders: Definitely. I mean, the 80s was a funny time, wasn’t it? In many respects it was ostentatious and horrible, but in London in particular, I think the creative scene was much more about being poor, Margaret Thatcher, and coming up with good ideas. And Michael Clark, Leigh Bowery, all those people that we looked at when we were at St Martin’s College, they represented freedom of expression and ideas. Not that the collection I’ve just done is particularly wild or out there, but it’s an inspiring time to look at and think about. Colour’s always been something that I work with as a starting point anyway.

“All the cool guys and all the good-looking guys wore Lyle & Scott polo shirts. For me it was like this cultish, hot thing to wear”

DD: So where did you draw the colour inspiration from? Was it a particular image?

Jonathan Saunders: No, I made it up, I always do. I started with a pile of colours on my table, and I put some together. Then if it started to look too nice, I put in something to ruin that…and that’s generally the starting point.

DD: Because they’re colours that you feel shouldn’t really work together…

Jonathan Saunders: Some of them are horrible!

DD: Did you look at anything from the Lyle & Scott archive?

Jonathan Saunders: No, but when I was at school in Glasgow and was into The Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets and all that, Lyle & Scott was very cool. All the cool guys and all the good-looking guys wore Lyle & Scott polo shirts. For me it was like this cultish, hot thing to wear. So when they asked me to do it…I wanted to have fun with it and do things that were a bit more unexpected.

DD: Did any music influence you?

Jonathan Saunders: Throbbing Gristle: I’ve been into them this season. I’d listened to them a bit when I was younger, and I was trying to remember bands like that, that were really disjointed and unfriendly, that typical London scene.

DD: Do you tend to listen to the same genre of music?

Jonathan Saunders: No, I’ve got such a weird taste in music. Maybe that’s a fashion thing, I don’t know. I like Britney Spears, I like The Stone Roses, I like 80s, 90s house music, Lou Reed, Pet Shop Boys, Pink Floyd… I hate indie music. I hate all that shit. What’s that band that looks from X Factor, and they’re everyone’s favourite band? You know that kind of festival music? Mulford & Sons?

DD: Mumford & Sons?

Jonathan Saunders: Mumford & Sons. Fucking hate them. Middle class kids drinking cider and singing along, that’s my worst nightmare.

“I’m not very Scottish. I left Glasgow and moved to London, and never looked back”

DD: Lyle & Scott have been going for 140 years. How do you imagine knitwear in 140 years’ time?

Jonathan Saunders: Fashion’s weird, isn’t it? It’s reference upon reference upon reference. I think that in 100 years’ time it’ll all look Victorian, because we’re so obsessed with the past, when things were hand-made. Artisanal qualities become more and more valuable by the year. As things get more technological, and more highbrow, and more sophisticated, creative people long for something that’s not. So I assume that in 200 years we’ll be looking at hand-knitted, crocheted Victoriana.

DD: Have you ever considered a line of kilts?

Jonathan Saunders: I love kilts! But, I don't know… I’ve got a family kilt. It’s the Sanderson tartan, but I’ve only worn it once. My best friend got married a couple of years ago, and I didn’t wear it then either. I’m not very Scottish. I know I sound very Scottish, but I’m not that Scottish. I left Glasgow and moved to London, and never looked back. I love it though. It’ll always be my home.

DD: How do you feel about Scottish independence?

Jonathan Saunders: I think that it’s nonsense, and I think we should just embrace the fact that we’re part of Great Britain. What’s wrong with that? I think that teamwork is always better.