Modest DKNY Brings Back the Boilersuit

By Lauren Cochrane

It would be possible to make a case for the boilersuit – from Ghostbusters to the hordes of Glastonbury – as the item of the decade. At New York fashion week on Monday evening, there was more fuel to the fire: the finale of the DKNY show featured about 40 models in boiler suits. Case closed.

This was the first show for DKNY since it was bought by production company G-III for around £500m in July. And, judging by the venue (New York’s favourite 21st-century tourist attraction, the High Line), the 9pm start and millennial-focused front row, change was in the air.
It came courtesy of Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, who made their name designing for their brand Public School. This is their third collection for DKNY and, like the previous outings, New York was the inspiration for a collection that attempted to create a uniform for young, city-dwelling professionals. “In the future, what will define New York style?” read the show notes. “People talk a lot about our past, but we like to think about what’s next.” That means, presumably, boilersuits.

The concept of clothes for New Yorkers paid homage to Karan’s original idea – easy clothes for busy professional women. Other designs on Monday evening elaborated on this idea, and brought it up to date with sporty details and a colour palate of navy, khaki and taupe. See: slouchy hoodies, duster jackets, sharp trim jacket, and sports bras with subtle DKNY branding on the midriff. Karan, sitting in the front row, would have approved. Some pieces took the functional thing too far – long net coats with multiple pockets or plastic moulded shoes for example. But this is more a work in progress for a new era, as opposed to the finished article.

It was announced in July that LVMH had sold DKNY, originally bought in 2001, as part of Donna Karan International to US-based production company G-III. With this deal it became only the second ever brand to be sold by LVMH. G-III produces clothes for other American brands including Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, so Karan’s label – another American classic – fits in well. “[Donna Karan International’s] lifestyle aesthetic resonates well with consumers throughout the world,” said Morris Goldfarb, chief executive of G-III, at the time.

As Goldfarb is no doubt aware, the brand’s reach is far from Karan’s heyday in the 80s and 90s. This can be seen in black-and-white through sales figures – Donna Karan International was running at a loss when it was bought by G-III. It is the job of these new designers, and new owners, to turn that around. This is the first step on that road.

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