Daniel Silver and Steven Cox of Duckie Brown; Photo: Everett McCourt contact: email@example.com
I always forget how much I enjoy talking to fashion designers because so often I'm interviewing people from slightly different worlds, like cosmetics, home design, art, etc. I enjoy all the interviews I do, but for me, fashion is a first language, it's where my heart is, and to talk to about it with creative minds feels like hearing English in a foreign country, such a welcome good feeling.
I'm very excited that Steven Cox and Daniel Silver, the duo behind Duckie Brown, are here today at Trust Your Style. For those of you who aren't familiar with Duckie Brown, you may have seen Jude Law, Adrien Brody, Kevin Bacon, Matt Damon, Green Day, Beck, Ricky Martin, Rod Stewart, Graham Norton or Ashton Kutcher wearing Duckie Brown. The big news is that Duckie Brown was just nominated for the 2007 CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year Award, which is a huge honor in the fashion world.
mj: Congratulations on the CFDA nomination! I was rooting for you guys. Can you tell me a little about what the whole CFDA nomination experience like?
steven: Thank you. We were up against huge people. Even though we didn't win, we won because we're a tiny company of two, up against the hugest companies (Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein) in the world. I mean Ralph Lauren is as huge in American as Giorgio Armani. The power of those companies and the publicity behind them is huge.
mj: How did you meet and how did Duckie Brown come about?
daniel: We met over 15 years ago and at the beach in Fire Island. It was Steven's dream to have his own label after having worked for many people--Polo jeans, Tommy...
steven: I worked with a lot of people, for 20 designers in New York. I was burnt out from working with everyone else and it seemed like the right time. I'm 40 now and I wanted to have my own collection since I started fashion school when I was 18. It took me until I was 35 to be ready. And I went through all the things of working for other people, learning about the American public, how to become a merchandiser and a businessman. Getting mature, getting wiser, getting older.
daniel: We were burnt out at the right time. We didn't want to have a boss anymore. We had some money and we put a sample line of 17 pieces together and just took it Barneys and Maxfield. Maxfield in Los Angeles ordered the first line and then Barneys ordered the second season. And now we've got 150 pieces.
mj: What do you think sets you apart from other menswear designers?
daniel: It's our spirit and reflected in our collection and the signature of Duckie Brown--I think it's also us.
steven: We are different humans than others. Our color, proportion, our line is whimsical or eccentric as some call it. We hand dye, we sepia dye, we cut the lining out and redo it, and then hand sew it back in. People don't realize how much we touch them and I think that is the main thing and we put on everything that goes out. Some companies just send out directly from the factory. We're working with a jacket now that came in from a factory and redoing the lining. We don't like it so we're taking out the lining, moving the shoulder pad, re-sewing it in with a different gold thread. That is the spirit of Duckie Brown. This venture can get bigger but it can't get that big because there's a limit how many people are going to buy a $6,000 jacket.
mj: It's been said that if you don't have a sense of humor you won't enjoy a Duckie Brown show. Do you think that's true?
daniel: If you don't have a sense of humor, you're not going to enjoy life. You're begging a bigger question. I think it's true, we have injected a sense of humor into menswear and that's a difficult thing and there's not too many menswear collections who reflect a sense of humor.
steven: I always feel like I'm in therapy during these interviews. In our shows there is a sense of humor and an incredible seriousness. Has it become a joke? Before the CFDA nomination, we were worried about whether it was too jokey. But it's not. People say that because we do beaded turtles or hippos on our clothes that we have a sense of humor, but the clothes themselves are very serious.
I didn't have a lot of fun working in corporate America. But now we are Duckie Brown and we're having a lot of fun. It's serious but we need to laugh at the same time. We worry about this question all the time. For example, our new collection--we've been worried, my God, it's very serious it's very classic, very American sportswear. Another person would say you're showing these huge floral prints, how can you say it's serious? And sense of humor, what's that a euphemism for? We try and balance it and that's what has gained the reputation for our line. We're very very serious and we want to have a laugh at the same time.
daniel: Our line has been compared to "the wink of an eye" and I think it's because that's who we are. We have an ability to laugh at ourselves and laugh at the world. Duckie because there's a gently eccentric sense and there's Brown, a very traditional English name. And that's who we are.
mj: Who are your design influences? Who are your favorite designers?
daniel: Rei Kawakuba, I think everything she does is amazing. Commes des Garcons is always new fresh, and innovative, yet remains true to who they are. There is part of Duckie Brown that tries to turn it out every season and yet keep true to who we are. It's hard that we're doing it in New York because we have a much more European sensibility.
steven: That's because I'm European. For me, Vivienne Westwood, Dries Van Noten, Commes de Garcons, Raf Simons, Bernard Willhelm (sorry, there were more, but Steven was talking so fast, I couldn't catch everyone!) They all inspire me. Inspire is a funny word because some people say 'inspire' and it means 'rip off'. I just love seeing their work. When you see a Vivienne Westwood or Dries you know it's a Vivienne Westwood or a Commes de Garcons or a Yoshi. If you see a Duckie Brown outfit it looks like Duckie Brown.
mj: Do you wear other menswear besides your own line?
daniel: Yes absolutely.
daniel: See 'yes, absolutely' and 'no', that's Duckie Brown!
steven: The same list as I just gave you. Vintage stuff. I used to come to Fred Segal ten years ago and thought it was the most beautiful store back when they carried all those lines. I wear Dries, Commes, Rick Owens when I have the money to wear it, because it's expensive, and I wear it with Duckie Brown. I don't wear Duckie Brown head to toe.
mj: I just saw the photos from the CFDA awards and you both looked beautiful.
steven: Well that's different. On those occassions we're wearing Duckie Brown head to toe.
mj: How would you describe your own style or the style of a Duckie Brown customer?
steven: It's like there are Duckie Brown customers without a sense of humor and Duckie Brown customers with a sense of humor. We are surprised who our customer is. It's not some guy with whacked out hair. We have doctors and electricians and accountants, pop stars, and wall street--it's not one guy. There's something about Duckie Brown that hits a nerve everywhere.
mj: Can you talk a little about your favorite pieces from your fall collection. I love the 2 button jackets, the coat in your fall collection and the bright green coat.
daniel: Our favorite piece is the green double-faced camel coat.
steven: For me a jacket is the most important piece--I just love working on jackets, all of them. But the green cashmere coat definitely was a favorite.
daniel: And the critics shirt. That black and white print shirt, it's a print that we did and called the critic shirt.
steven: We do a collection every season and it's an invitation to bring people into our world. Then the critics write about it and the dialogue is finished. We'd love to continue the discussion so what we decided to do is to take what people have written about us and show it on the runway.
I am very honored that Steven and Daniel were kind enough to stop by and share some of their thoughts. And who knows, Trust Your Style could end up strutting down a Duckie Brown runway someday--I would suggest a lining as this is a long interview! To see the latest Duckie Brown news you can go to www.duckiebrown.com or Duckie Brown on MySpace.
For those of you visiting or living in London, Duckie Brown is also currently featured at the Victoria & Albert Museum's show 'New York Fashion Now' that runs through September 2007.