It's not a perfect science, but reading between the lines of a show casting can tell you quite a bit about a brand's take on itself. There were no megasuperstar models at this morning's Daks show, but the presence of serious, in-demand girls such as Marie Piovesan, Kate King, and Lara Mullen gave a clear impression that the house is liking its chances at the moment. That confidence isn't misplaced: The new Daks collection was the most compelling yet from Sheila McKain-Waid, who instituted a regime of clean, sculptural sophistication when she debuted as the brand's womenswear designer a year ago.
The show today opened with a series of looks in tonal exchanges of chalky white and cream. The limpid palette established an atmosphere of weightlessness that carried through much of the show. And that weightlessness was what really felt fresh here: Where other brands have seized the moment for sculpted silhouettes by bonding, lacquering, and hardening their fabrics, McKain-Waid had the wit to go in the opposite direction, and create ethereal volumes using barely-there materials. Witness the belted cream vest on Kate King, with its ballooning volume in back, or the handkerchief-weight, broad-leg jumpsuit worn underneath it. McKain-Waid wasn't opposed to using sterner materials, but when she did, it was with great specificity, as in her see-through nylon anoraks, or sporty vests trimmed with plastic.
The see-through nylon and plastic touches were part of a larger conversation within the collection about opacity and transparency. In general, McKain-Waid played with the theme by overlapping sheer materials—an idea taken from an antique Vionnet blouse made from sewn-together scarves. McKain-Waid makes a habit of using her references well: Another inspiration this season was a Jasper Johns painting, of white paint brushed on raw canvas, which influenced the collection's tonal and textural play, as well its excellent brushstroke prints. (One of these was a riff on Daks' heritage check, which McKain-Waid is of course obliged to incorporate into all of her collections. If she minds, she doesn't show it.) There were some weak spots here—the leather, for instance, seemed a little out of place—but overall, this collection was thorough, polished, and compelling.