Duckie Brown’s Daniel Silver and Steven Cox foster their own talent.
The menswear world was caught off guard when the somewhat classic brand Perry Ellis announced a collaboration with avant-garde collection Duckie Brown last February. Steven Cox and Daniel Silver, the CFDA award-winning duo behind the cutting-edge label, debuted the first collection during New York fashion week in September, just a few days after their signature line. They also work with the more than 100-year-old Florsheim shoe company and have an exclusive collection with New York retailer Rothmans. Here, we catch up with Silver, half of the talented—and very busy—couple. (Not that Cox wasn’t there…he was just busy listening…to the fabric!)
How many collections are you working on now?
Duckie Brown is our signature collection, and is sold at stores like Barneys and Odin. It’s our top of the line and retails for anywhere from $900 to $2,500 for a jacket, or as much as $3,000 for outerwear. We’ve been doing Florsheim by Duckie Brown since fall 2009, and that’s sold everywhere: Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods, Selfridges…. Shoes retail for $295 to $500. Mr. Brown, our exclusive with Rothmans, includes suits ($795 to $895), sportcoats ($495 to $595), shirts ($175) and neckwear ($75 to $85). [Editor's note: Mr. Brown will expand and be available for wholesale in the fall 2013 selling season. Rothmans' Ken Giddon says the line has the best sell-through percentage in the store's NYC flagship.] Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown is so new, we don’t know retailers yet, but a jacket in that collection might cost $350 or so.
So how does Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown fit into the bigger Duckie Brown and Perry Ellis pictures?
Well, we don’t do perfume or underwear like some designers do just to make money; we have collaborations. Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown will try to capture a bigger chunk of the market. It’s a bit more forward than the regular Perry Ellis sportswear collections, and more mainstream and all-American than Duckie Brown. It allows Duckie Brown to be more to the left. Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown is ‘edited’ Duckie Brown. If we’re showing you a suit, there’s going to be something special about that suit. The fabrics are from Italy, it’s hand-tailored in Italy. It will have a more European cut.
How are you feeling about your popularity?
Admittedly, we’re having a moment, riding the crest of an amazing wave. We’re thankful and aware that everything changes. Honestly, we’ve had so much press lately we’re sick of ourselves!
Who are your mentors?
I wouldn’t say we have mentors, but we’re inspired by the success of European designers like Dries Van Noten, Comme des Garcons, Vivienne Westwood and Walter Von Beirendonck.
How do you guys work?
Well…I can’t sketch, so I handle the business and Steven is the designer, but you can’t really put either of us in a box. After any season is over we start thinking about where we want the silhouette to go. We start with the shoulder—and then have a nervous breakdown. But it always comes together. We’re never late. The fall 2013 (a meditation on 14th Street and 8th Avenue) show will be styled by January 15th . And unlike a lot of designers, we then have the models come up. We fit the clothing to the boy, not the boy to the clothing. It’s the boy as we see him.
What’s your inspiration?
It’s ourselves. Not James Dean or Steve McQueen or Jack Kennedy…within Duckie Brown there’s something for a 20-year-old as well as an 85-year-old. Our customer wants interesting things. If you want a white shirt…sure we have that, but I can’t imagine why you’d come to us for it. Buy the pieces that are fabulous.
What sets you apart from other designers?
We’re American designers and will always show in New York. But there’s a disconnect in menswear here. It’s hard to be based in the US and not be hell-bent on the contemporary market. We really do a designer collection, and the press is always referring to us as “wacky” or “kooky”—that’s really an insult. “Duckie Brown showed XYZ on the runway and it’s not ‘wearable.'” Well, the model was wearing it. The US just doesn’t foster talent the way they do in Europe.