Last season was produced under the shadow of family tragedy, so it was understandably a somber collection from Duckie Brown, but Steven Cox found the downbeat mood persisted when he started work on Fall. Everything was still black. But black took him to a lush barathea, the fabric from which tuxedos are cut, and Cox began to feel better. Then a book about ballet renegade Michael Clark got him thinking about the avant-garde sportiness of Clark and his buddies from Body Map in London in the mid-eighties. By which time Cox was feeling much better.
It showed on the catwalk, where Cox and partner Daniel Silver's off-kilter design signature—serious substance and irreverent style comfortably coexisting—was in full effect. A country squire might have recognized the classic herringbones, tweeds, and tartans, but he'd have been flummoxed by the silhouettes, either tailored to unyielding trimness, or exploding into extreme volumes, usually in the same outfit. The Duckie duo are past masters of disorientation. Here, the languor of floppy pants, the literal twists of bias, and circular cutting evoked the don't-give-a-damn dressiness of the homme fatal. A particularly chiseled model casting helped. So did the Grey Gardens headgear.
It's too easy to attach the androgyny label—and Cox is too in thrall to the English lad culture of his youth for it to stick—but the typically odd echoes in this collection did strike the hybrid note that makes Duckie Brown so unique in New York. Cox acknowledged it with his own label: "hiking evening." And maybe it was just the soundtrack that sparked another hybrid association, but if anyone is going to put rave couture on a catwalk, it'll surely be Cox and Silver, which makes the challenge of their new gig at Perry Ellis all the more intriguing. Remember what Perry did for the man called Marc.