Has Donna Karan taken with her the fashion revolution she inspired by stepping down from globally recognized Donna Karan International? Though the major fashion icon remains an adviser to her own company, she has bequeathed the original New York style brand to Public School duo Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, the new creative directors of the brand.
Earlier in their career, the pair was met with reluctance by William van Meter from the New York Times. “Mr. Chow and Mr. Osborne are something of an aberration among men’s wear designers who traffic in clothes with athletic references — they actually care, deeply, about sports, especially basketball,” Van Meter said.
However, their idiosyncrasies in design led them to win the Swarovski young men’s designer award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2014. The two designers, known to work mainly with a black palette, have been inspired by street clothes giving rise to a look that is in between casual and classy.
Both native New Yorkers, the two wanted to honor the city in which Karan made her name, and chose to debut their collection, titled “Missing Pieces,” in a white underpass at the PATH train station at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Adhering to the DKNY look by incorporating pinstripes in asymmetrical wool wrap dresses, coats, jackets and tailored suits, the duo was loud in their proclamation of the DKNY girl as a strong, independent and sophisticated New Yorker.
This does not stray far from Karan’s vision of her design — a physical representation of both the energy and sheer grace of New York. However, the burning question that plagued all in the fashion world seemed to be answered after the Public School’s debut on Sept. 16. Can Chow and Osborne continue the legacy of the woman whose designs symbolize New York fashion?
Both men have a long way to go, according to Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times. Friedman found the DKNY duo’s collection drab and based on simple styling stereotypes, such as the T-shirt/button-down and the pinstriped jacket that was merely made into avant-garde bodysuits combined with rompers.
Friedman draws a parallel between the city streets’ grime and the layering of knit tank dresses over plain white shirting, boldly stating that the entire show had almost no color. She added that DKNY has been “aesthetically adrift for a while,” standing for nothing other than “work- and party wear” for the New York woman. In Karan’s absence, Chow and Osborne played it “coy” in a “wasted opportunity” to reinvent New York dressing. However, in an AP article, Chow addressed the new, important moment by his description of the season’s title.
“Funny enough, we titled this season Missing Pieces, knowing that it’s a journey…we still don’t really know this girl altogether,” said Chow. “We’re still putting the pieces together.”
Karan is essential in the fashion world, as she revolutionized clothing through her innovative ideas that portray the female as a womanly, practical and empowered individual. Thus, a true Donna Karan collection can only be done by the fashion icon herself, since she has her own way of seeing beauty. For her legacy and profit to continue, Karan would eventually need to pass the torch to someone else.
Although she may approve of her appointed successors’ works, the new collection is still, for the most part, not hers. Da Vinci would not have someone else paint for him and still call it his own. Thus, DKNY as a fashion house now becomes separate and distinct from its founder. For any true fan of the company, the brand is no longer a Donna Karan, nor can it ever be, unless she herself comes back.
Email Mikaella Evaristo at [email protected]