Duckie Brown AW12: proportion, postpunk and the future of hats

Posted on 16th February, by Colin Chapman in Collection review, menswear, New York Fashion Week. No Comments

When I was invited to the Duckies’ studio back in September last year, I was privileged enough to see some of the sketches for AW12-3 they were working on, and there were rolls of dark fabrics everywhere. At the time, Steven commented that there had “never had so much black” in their studio. Having had these glimpses, it was especially thrilling for me to see the fruition of this in their AW12-3 collection. And whilst they sombre note he’d suggested is definitely there, the collection is also shot through with playfulness, and a youthful sense of countercultural defiance. The coherence and fluency with which this is communicated is pure Duckie Brown.

The opening blazer, a first hat and signs of the proportion play to come.

The references that initially hit me came through the styling, especially the hair of certain models; reminiscent of Robert Smith’s iconic birds nest do or possibly The Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie; a kind of introspective English punk, more shuffling indie shoegazer than swaggering Sid.

For me this is the most perfectly realised ensemble in the whole collection with the flecked fabric and somehow futuristic grey on grey.

Subtle check, introducing a note of crumpling.

More flecking, this time in a tailored suit, and the most perfect hat of the collection.

Opening with lots of black, including a superlative double-breasted blazer, what eventually emerges from the collection is a play on proportion with long overshirts, wide leg pants and some fantastic fabrication in the heavy woolens, plaids and flannels, eventually shot through with some gorgeous, unexpected colour in outrageous oversized plaids. What was also very evident in this collection is the Duckie facility for designing great hats.

Here come the busbies! (and colour).

Hats have been in limbo for some time, with familiar shapes such as slouchy beanie, traditional baseball cap or (for the edgier contingent) riding hat; suggesting possibilities but nothing new.  The knitted caps and hats presented in this collection meanwhile suggested new, futuristic shapes, neither costumey nor purely street. And out on a limb were the genius mini-Busbies, echoing the spiky profile of those post-punk hairdos, with a cheeky nod to English military pomp, and the perfect accessory to some of the wilder plaids.

Another great hat detail; part beanie, part turban.

In terms of specific garments, the standout pieces for me here are the overshirts, already a global theme for AW12-3, offering the ease of the transitional with the playfulness of switching outdoor and indoor fabrics. Overshirts are a staple in the States, as a visit to a good vintage store stocked with Pendleton and Gitman Bros will evidence, and what the Duckies did here is to make it immediately relevant; with some elegant cutting, extending the length beyond the waist and in very contemporary grey-on-grey flannels. Whilst the drop-crotch pants weren’t received well by all viewers, it’s a testament to The Duckie’s expertise that this challenging shape, when seen as part of the flow of the rest of the collection, looks simply elegant, especially when partnered with the somehow formal weightiness of those structured overshirts. And when looked at in the overwhelming sea of preppiness and tradition that American menswear can sometimes seem, an occasional V-sign to the chino can only be welcomed.

The perfect overshirt to demonstrate the new length and the heavy, ‘outdoor’ fabrication.

One of the delights of Fashion Week in February is being able to futuregaze into next winter at a time when staying warm is still a very real priority. The Duckie Brown 2012-3 collection makes next winter look very inviting, balancing the trends of proportion play and transitional shapes with an expert sense of fabrication and a healthy dose of individualism. And the futuregazing here goes one step further, offering up a sort of uniform for an imagined Portland of the future.

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