New York Fashion Week SS14: Duckie Brown review
Boys keep swinging: Duckie Brown’s SS14 collection doesn’t skirt around the issue of what men can wear.
Duckie Brown today played up to their reputation for being New York’s premier experimentalists in the form of menswear. And playing is the right word to use, not in the sense of being pointlessly frivolous but in the idea of a childlike refusal to accept rules as rules and to continuously test boundaries, especially when it comes to what can be worn and by whom. In the opening moments, a spoken word soundtrack, voiced by children, expressed the arbitrariness of male and female dress codes and their impact on aspirations and identities, a sentiment later underlined by the lyrics of some driving adult-vocalled hip hop.
Backstage before the show, Steven Cox was wearing a stunning navy blue skirt (I assumed from the collection, and this was later confirmed). The shape was formal and structured and the piece avoided any effeminacy by revealing the legs in a masculine way, reminiscent of a kilt with it’s open-sided panels, but with the ease of form of sportswear and grounded by the solid navy colour.
The show notes intriguingly itemised ‘basketball skirts’ and ‘aprons’ amongst the pieces to come, and as the collection was gradually revealed, the idea of the skirt and a general questioning of what men wear on their bottom half was investigated through overlapping layers, variations on dropped crotch/draped shorts as well as the said aprons and basketball skirts. Despite this relentless rule-breaking in terms of form, the colour palette remained within the realm of male uniforms including solid white, navy, grey and khaki (echoed by some rugged, military footwear from their own ongoing Florsheim collaboration) and there was an overriding sense of rough edges and the toughness of workwear. This contrasting sense of utilitarianism even extended to their use of lace as a fabric (surely the continuation of the clause opened by the use of unexpected forms for men) whereby a cropped black lace jacket in the Duckies’ hands somehow became less Chanel and more workwear.
As with all Duckie Brown shows, there were distinct phases: monochrome pieces in white, navy and grey were followed by vertical stripes on shorts and outerwear leading to an incredible sequence of pieces created from raw jute, a fabric reminiscent of flour sacks (some pieces even featured printed wording) but here the rough fabric was elegantly tailored, layered and overlapped, and the collection was concluded by the lace segment.
I’m left with a lingering impression of having seen a lot of male leg today: shorts and thigh-revealing flaps galore, layers upon layers and a very individual spin on the idea of skirts for men. Duckie Brown didn’t invent the male skirt (as many a Givenchy-clad iconclast, bum-flap wearing punk or Gaultier historicist would love to remind me, I’m sure) but they have staked their corner in a conversation that is taking place in the more interesting realms of menswear. The idea of a man in a skirt is still very provocative and is therefore worthy of exploration by all those interested in the boundaries of who we are allowed to be, whether that shape is merely hinted at or enjoyed in all it’s liberating glory.
Here are the first batch of images from the show today, as ever my intention is to evoke the atmosphere and the details that drew my eye.
Backstage, the styling was all about those carefully blow-dried fringes:
Basketball skirts, shorts and aprons in full effect:
The Duckies take their bow, Steven resplendent in navy basketball skirt: (image courtesy of Florsheim by Duckie Brown)