“Thank you, Donna. Thank you, New York.” So read the letter DKNY’s new creative directors, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osbourne, issued to attendants of their debut show at New York fashion week on Wednesday.
The Donna in question is, of course, Donna Karan, the woman who founded the label as a more affordable younger sister to her main line, Donna Karan International, in 1989.
Along with Ralph Lauren, Diane Von Furstenberg and Calvin Klein, Karan is a pillar of US fashion, and is particularly famous for creating clothes with a feminist bent. In 1985, she released the “seven easy pieces” collection of stretchy bodysuits and off-the-shoulder tops, designed to allow women to dress quickly and without fuss for work. Her advertisements – like the 1992 campaign centring on the inauguration of a female president – were groundbreaking, too.
Earlier this year, it was announced that she would step down as the brand’s chief designer, and that the Donna Karan International brand would be put on hiatus, with DKNY continuing with Chow and Osbourne, of critically acclaimed streetwear label Public School, at the reins. This was big news – not only are Chow and Osbourne young, they also specialise in tough, pared-back menswear, having only launched a women’s line last season.
Though Karan has often been associated with the colour black (“I was always black,” she once said. “Calvin was neutral. Ralph is blue and tartan. I once had a CEO from Armani who wanted me to use more grays. That did not work”), DKNY has often felt like a cheerful, bright-coloured brand in recent years, its advertisements filled with big yellow taxis and oversized Granny Smith apples. Wednesday’s new vision for the brand was much more pared back, reflected by the venue – “Path hall” – part of the train station under the World Trade Centre, a stark, shiny, cavernous white space.
There was not a hint of colour in 39 of the 41 looks (the remaining two were cobalt), which played with the idea of New York power dressing in white T-shirt jumpsuits, gauzy black layers over slinkier tube dresses, and an awful lot of pinstripes, seen as loose maxi dresses, half-kilts and trousers. It was an unshowy start, for a new design team at a brand this famous but – as DKNY’s parent company LVMH well know – understatement has a lot of cachet in fashion at the moment.