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Two shows, Boss and DKNY, staged within an hour of each other, and both looking to capitalise on the same female customer. She’s a working woman. She wears a blazer or suit. She needs to look efficient and office appropriate but she wants her wardrobe to fizz beyond the boardroom.
At DKNY, design duo Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne were making their debut at the label which announced earlier this summer that its founder, Donna Karan, would be stepping back in order to pursue her philanthropic causes. Her eponymous line has been shuttered and her diffusion line is now entrusted to the pair better known as Public School, the design house they co-founded in 2008, and which showed earlier this week.
Public School are fashion darlings here: they won the CFDA award for menswear in 2014 and the International Woolmark Prize shortly thereafter. They’re young and hipster. Their slouchy, multi-layered, loungy style seemed a natural fit for DKNY, home after all of the basic layer and a belief in easy separates. I was curious, however, to see how their already well-established aesthetic would translate to another label: would it simply look like another version of what they already do?
Well, yes and no. Dedicating their first collection to New York, the pair’s native home, and a place, growing up, in which “the world was our backyard”, this collection opened with a pinstripe jacket, oversized at the shoulder and tailored to the hip, and then proceeded to offer around 40 riffs on the theme of its deconstruction. It was chopped into dresses, buttoned into wrap skirts and tailored into a jumpsuit. The pinstripe theme was printed on viscose satin to make silky split back dresses, while white shirting was reinvented as a trim, or pleated peplum detail. It should have looked cool — but it felt a little fussy. Neither quite cool enough, nor sophisticated. A twill dress printed with a black and white image from “1994” felt ickily dated.
Over at Boss, Jason Wu, another New York designer who shows his own line here, had hit his stride. After a couple of fitful seasons, playing with proportion and grappling with the suiting on which the German brand is built, for SS16, he had relaxed the silhouette, showing a longer, more accessible collection of elegant clothes with raw edges, beaded fringing and asymmetric detailing. His collection was a testament to the fact a designer needs time to understand the house for whom he works.
An excellent trouser suit saw the trousers cropped mid-calf and worn with a sleeveless, fringed vest that hit the knee. It was simple and unfussy and grown-up. There were frilly dresses. Bauhaus colours had informed his cobalt, zesty chiffon dresses and a collection of patchwork leather bags provided bright details of colour against paper-thin Prince of Wales checks.
Wu seems to have heeded the growing demand for trans-seasonal workwear that can be thrown on and layered in a variety of climates. His collection echoed the clean lines and raw-edged charm of minimal labels like The Row. It was a convincing show and I’ll be curious to see how the the Boss and DKNY collections compare at retail. For my money, Wu’s was the chicer investment.