A season into their collaboration with, and line for, Perry Ellis, Steven Cox and Daniel Silver are clear about one thing: "I don't want it to be a commercial version of Duckie Brown," Cox said. "It gives us the freedom to do whatever we want with Duckie," his partner added, "which is great." Duckie Brown, several days ago, was a career-high show, so the freedom to do whatever they want is a freedom worth courting: It suits them. Perry Ellis didn't have the same lyrical urgency that made you snap to attention. It made you wonder whether merely enabling it is enough.
The answer to that depends on your hope for the label. The Duckies have brought Perry Ellis into the fashion conversation in a way it hasn't been in recent memory. That's a strike in their favor. They say they're doing so by stripping it not only of associations to their line but to those of its namesake's, too. "It's not about Perry Ellis anymore," Cox said with characteristic bluntness. The first show he designed for the label turned tricks with Perryism, playing with Ellis' khaki color scheme and boxy proportions. He claimed this show had far fewer Ellis references, but actually, they were still there, subjected to a Duckie goosing. Tell all the truth but tell it slant. Perry paisleys were reimagined in a hardy brocade, as a bomber jacket and a pair of upholstery-looking trousers. Suiting pieces were boxy, as Perry had them, but they were gussied up (in a densely woven English fabric called thornproof) or twisted in a way you have to be inside them to appreciate: the regular-looking gray suit that opened the show, for instance, that turned out to be mackintosh fabric. Or the nylon Crombie so stiff that, as Cox demonstrated backstage, it could stand up on its own. Ellis was known for cables, but rather than knit a sweater of them, the designers put them into wovens. Hence the cabled jacket in the mix.
These jibes were more or less hidden in plain sight. That could serve as the mantra and legend for Perry Ellis under Duckie Brown. The more lavish Duckie gets on its own steam, the more regular Perry appears to become. Cox spoke approvingly of uniformity and repetition, simple shapes trotted out again and again. But sly play with fabric and cut made for more than first met the eye. Which made it a bit of poetic justice that the entire show grew out of the camouflage passage at the end.