Dispatches from New York: The New DKNY

We wanted to take it back to where Donna started...


A new era at DKNY began yesterday as Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School debuted their collection in front of Donna Karan, the brand’s namesake who in June left the company she founded 31 years ago.
‘We wanted to take it back to where Donna started,’ said Osborne post show. ‘And we wanted it to be focused and set the bar in terms of detail and silhouette,’ added Chow.
So were there seven easy pieces, the founding principles on which Karan based her wear-to-work and rule-the-boardroom brand? And wouldn’t that have been an ideal opening gambit for the designers to kick it all off? Times have changed since Karan’s 1984 DKNY launch, when all you needed was a body suit under your power pinstripes to pinball you from boardroom to cocktail. But the famous Peter Lindbergh images of that era of a woman purposefully striding down Fifth Avenue, soaring skyscrapers as a backdrop and yellow taxi cabs everywhere, became the subject of the new designers’ prints. These were served up as black and white images on slim simple tank dresses, chopped into stripes or just a portion of the image blown up – a neat idea, to use the iconicity of the brand.


But it was the tailoring that led the conversation and this came in… yup, pinstripes. Again, no powersuits here (although the opening jacket, worn sans skirt or trousers, had quite mighty shoulders). They also came disrupted in the pair’s typical deconstructed fashion, shirt dresses sliced with pleat skirts and open-back aprons over shorts. As for the ‘body’ suit, it came as a simple white T-shirt that extended into micro shorts – another respectful take on the brand’s history.
But what about the brand’s future? Did the new DKNY set the fashion world alight? No, at least not yet. It simply took no risks even with its conceptual undertones. Surely the beating heart of DKNY is where sportswear intersects with street and youth culture, and that’s what the Public School boys need to identity sharpish.
That said, they certainly know who their woman is, or rather who they want her to be, said Chow: ‘She wants to be taken seriously but she doesn’t take herself seriously. She’s ambitious, aspirational and she wants her clothes to reflect that.’

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