Style & Arts: Studio Style & Arts

April 20, 2008

Breaking the Menswear Mold

Daniel Silver (below right) and Steven Cox (below left) make up the design team behind the New York-based menswear label Duckie Brown, known for its witty -- but studiously tailored -- approach to men's fashion. The designers, who launched their label in 2001, have an affection for bold colors, unusual fabrics, sequins, embroidery and droopy crotches. The brand's distribution is limited, as not a lot of men have the wherewithal to dress up in an ivory organza blazer such as the one from the spring collection. But its customer base is dotted with boldface names, and in 2007 Cox, who is British, and Silver, who is Canadian, were nominated for best menswear designers by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. They're now collaborating with Florsheim on a small collection of men's dress shoes, which they promise will be pleasantly eccentric, but not disconcertingly outlandish. For fall 2008, they created a cotton and nylon trench coat that is as stiff as papier-mache, but as durable, they say, as any traditional garment. Wearing it is akin to being tucked inside a piece of sculpture. With each bend of the arm or twist of the torso, the coat -- which has heavyweight interfacing fused to the inside to give it shape -- crunches and crinkles and, over time, collapses around the body... which is all part of the point.

"We had been experimenting with fusing and where it is normally and where else you can put it," Cox says. "Normally you fuse the collar and the cuff and down the placket and that's it. We'd done a nylon jacket for spring '08 to see what would happen if you fused the front, but not the back." "We did a very light organza jacket with no fusing," Cox says. "It's like nothing." "We call it 'treated silk,' because we do menswear," Silver says. "I've always had this fantasy of making a dress out of bricks," Cox says. For fall, "I wanted a piece using the heaviest fusing. I wanted it to look like a statue. I wanted it to be so heavy it could stand up on its own." "When they say we can't, then we know we should," Silver says. "We had to take it to a very special factory -- Nancy Whiskey [& the Sewing Factory]. She does a lot of work for up-and-coming designers who want to do something unusual," Cox says. "Over time, this will break down," Silver says. "Most people buy things and want it to fit the same way for 20 years. This will grow and change with you. It will mold to your body." Says Cox: "I have a fantasy: to stand on it and crumple it all up."

-- Interview conducted and condensed by Robin Givhan

PHOTOS: Platon -- Duckie Brown; WEB EDITOR: Maura McCarthy - washingtonpost.com

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