The most important letters in DKNY may be the last two. It's a city brand, whose halcyon days were in the early nineties, when Karan's Houston Street billboard both captured, and became a part of, the New York skyline. Now that it's the latest label to be tapped by the nineties revivalists at Opening Ceremony (they've already worked their magic on Betsey Johnson), a whole new generation is encountering that image.
That could conceivably send fresh eyes to the brand. What will they see there? "It's always been DKNY," said the label's menswear designer, Garry Martin—emphasis "NY"—at its presentation. He was careful to note that the look transcends New York; it's for all cities now. But, he said, "we're not going to bring in loads of tweeds and plaids to the collection. A city guy's not going to wear it." He pointed out a trenchcoat reimagined in nylon and padded with duck down. "That's the city attitude," he said, "more than having a big tweed cashmere trenchcoat, that country feel." (That, he added, "I'm sure Tommy Hilfiger is going to be doing all day.")
The collection was based, as always, on sidewalk gray and navy. To say it had elements of sartorial and sport—tailoring in tropical flannel as well as nylon and technical wool, blazers quilted like puffers, a moto jacket in boiled wool—tells somewhat less about its point of difference than it once might have. Truth is, there are plenty of lines working in this vein now—most of them, admittedly, of more recent vintage than DKNY. Smart details distinguished many of the pieces—from the subtle (like the suede buttonholes on jackets) to the not so subtle (the jagged, blocky reworking of a camo print). And if it doesn't stand far ahead of the madding crowd, that's by design. "Everything you see is recognizable," Martin said. "You don't have to put on fifty pockets to make it fashion. It's a real city collection. The guy doesn't go home from the office, he doesn't get changed. We have to style a wardrobe for him." That's a very pragmatic start for fashion week, but there's a market for it.