After a couple of sticky seasons of realignment under its new chief executive, Paolo Riva, the house of Diane von Furstenberg presented its first collection under the new creative leadership of the Scottish-born designer Jonathan Saunders this weekend. Diane’s new man, who arrived at the 40-year-old design house founded by von Furstenberg in May of this year, didn’t stage a show, choosing instead to host a series of one-to-one presentations in which to suggest a new look at the house. It looked good: here was a fluid collection of highly wearable dresses, separates and jackets in juxtaposing print styles and colours, alongside a small but core collection of accessories.
Fans of Saunders’ clothes (the designer closed his eponymously-named London based design house last September) will well recognise his hand here: the house’s wrap dress had been recut on the bias and fabricated in bold graphic colour ways (a classic Saunders statement) and the wide printed trousers in fluttering kimono silk prints, bold striped separates and statement silky asymmetric dresses were reassuringly familiar. But the new accents were subtly done: his vision remains true to von Furstenberg’s extremely womanly brand of feminism.
“I wanted to revisit the brand values of DVF,” said the designer of his initial interaction with the fabled label. “I wanted to capture the brand’s effortlessness, colour, and print in an imaginative way.” It makes for an exciting proposition.
For Riva, who is in the process of repositioning the brand as a house of “aspirational luxury”, rethinking its pricing architecture and re-examining and editing the product lines, Saunders’ appointment has been vital in helping change the customer’s perception of DVF. Put simply, Saunders brings with him a design integrity and the lustre of fashionability which has, arguably, been a little lacking at the house in recent years. This collection felt more relevant and — crucially — cooler. Riva picked up a handbag, primary green, with a canvas lining, simple strap and no visible branding. It will retail for around $700, slap in the middle of the market. Was it enough to seduce a new customer? It is an interesting new contender, but that market is pretty crowded.
The collection presented this fashion week will arrive in stores from February and while most of it was on display at the presentation certain pieces were held back. Riva is yet to fully embrace the ready-to-buy structure that has seduced New York fashion of late. But the new boys are keeping back a few surprises.
Photographs: Diane von Furstenberg