The invitation boasted Elizabeth II and her consort Philip in a perfectly posed portrait of marital bliss. Cue signals sent about the composed verities of hidebound traditionwhich were blithely upended when a pre-show blast of blistering techno faded away to the pregnant silence that prevailed for the duration of the show. In a mere 21 outfits, Steven Cox and Daniel Silver made a stunning statement about contemporary menswearpossibly the most intelligent catwalk display that Manhattan's men's shows have ever managedwith a presentation that perversely evoked the golden age of haute couture, when models would walk in somber silence while clients focused on the cut of the clothes. And there was plenty of cut to contemplate. The collection was uniformly dark (another couture reference: Balenciaga, the fountain of all things enduringly fashionable, would always parade one all-black outfit to highlight his newest silhouette), which means that photographs can never do justice to its textures and tones (or the luxe of the fabrics).
Perhaps that was Cox and Silver's way of emphasizing that these were clothes designed to be primarily appreciated by the person who wears them. Hence, the collection's quiet classicism: pinstripe, herringbone, shearling, Prince of Wales and windowpane checks. But these menswear clichés were reconfigured as Duckie Brown classics. Their signature short-over-long proportion, for instance, appeared time and again in a newly restrained version as a nylon parka over a suit (sometimes with a knapsack). The union of formal and casualit also suggested man and boyevoked Raf Simons' preoccupations. So did the fabric research. A stiffened, crumpled nylon, used for an army jacket and a trench, looked like paper. Evening looks were the essence of male glamour. They included a lace sweater and a sweatshirt in a Prince of Wales check made up of Duckie's signature extravagant beading. The allure of these clothes is incontestable. Much more contentious is the name on the label. Arch and amusing that name may be, but it is possibly distracting people from the substance of Cox and Silver's work. Look again, guys, because you have no idea what you're missing.