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Earlier today, I visited Duckie Brown at their studio in the West Village to talk about their bold move in representing a single look for SS17. In a nod to the troubled economic and political times we’re living through, the Duckie’s felt it was “a good moment” to pause, and made an active decision not to show this season (having shown the line twice a year for the last thirteen years). The resulting one look is a triumph; a Haiku poem in khaki, navy and white. The look itself is being shared with fashion editors who would normally attend their show as an exquisitely-produced monochrome poster and in the form of a film ‘The Essential Duckie.”
While Daniel Silver gave me his take on the challenges facing the fashion industry globally as the role of the traditional fashion show and the nature of selling fashion garments itself continues to shapeshift, co-designer Steven Cox talked me through the process of paring back a collection to a single look. As ever with Cox, the starting point was quite tactile and experiential: a combination of the influence of his wearing tight running gear as he trained for a recent marathon, a reference image of the slim outline of a British skinhead and an archive Duckie Brown blazer, which had been produced entirely in jersey. Having explored and pioneered oversized fashion shapes, for SS17 The Duckies wanted to pare things back, including the proportions of the garments themselves.
Duckie Brown SS17 consists of a pair of apparently traditional khakis (produced in collaboration with their Brooklyn manufacturer), where the waist has been raised nine and a half inches above the usual waist height, a simple white polo shirt: “100% polyester” Cox affirms unapologetically, “it’s the same fabric that Kawakubo uses for Comme”, and a super-slimline, softly tailored blazer in navy. Describing the transformation noted in their model when he put on the ensemble at the shoot, Cox mimes a traditional couture pose – hand on sinuous hip. Cox was fascinated by how the form of the clothes could inspire such a shift in physical attitude, from local basketball court to classical fashion outline.
Having titled their summer collection The Essential Duckie, the Duckies really have gone back to basics here – the design process touching on many of their trademarks; the exploration of form and shape, an awareness of fashion in context (including delving into their own extensive brand archive) and a wry nod to traditional American menswear, referenced in the polo shirt, khakis and blazer.
Having shown just six looks last season, and now just a single look, the future is yet to be determined: “do we show just half a look next season?” quips Cox, “or thousands of looks?”
Whatever the outcome, it’s clear that New York’s most expectation-defying menswear designers are likely to respond to the changing times by simultaneously embracing that change while still keeping us guessing.