Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown Spring 2013: Let's Have A Khaki

Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown Spring 2013: Let's Have A Khaki

On the whole, there are two completely satisfying things about the first ever Perry Ellis collection by Duckie Brown—first, we get the pleasure of seeing what commercial goodies Steven Cox and Daniel Silver are able to concoct while wearing corporate gloves and second,  we get a brand new Perry Ellis that’s not as much reworked as it is taken to the future. Wait, stop. Quick check of history—Perry Ellis the man was once (back in the 70’s and 80’s) the enfant terrible of American men’s Fashion—before even Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. Ok, back to the now. There are elements that are strictly Perry Ellis—like khaki, and plenty of it (also the herringbone set was an homage to the walls at Perry Ellis’ Seventh Avenue Studio where he used to hold his fashion shows), and there’re aspects that have Duckie Brown written all over it, like drop crotch pants. The combo is laid back excitement and brazen politeness. Yes, the color story could be considered, uh, pale, monochromatic, but in its assembly and construction, it never veers too far from the playful soul of Duckie Brown. So how did Duckie Brown, makers of conceptual mens/unisex clothing who’re one half British come to take the reigns of one of the most storied, commercial American brands around? We sat down with them to have a little Kha-ki, if you will, and find out.

Essential Homme: We meet again! And you’re debuting the first Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown collection. Tell us about your first memories or interactions with Perry Ellis.

Steven Cox: He wasn’t someone I grew up with at college in London. The designers I would normally reference would be like Westwood and Yohji. There weren’t many American designers who made an impact on me while I was growing up. Maybe Calvin Klien and years later, Ralph Lauren—I think Ralph is the king. But Perry Ellis no.

Daniel Silver: I think it was when Perry Ellis approached us I said to Duckie (Steven) that we should  go see some images and get a feeling for what the brand was and where it is so we know how to talk them about what we can do.

SC: I think sometimes its good that I didn’t (know more about Perry Ellis), because sometimes if you don’t know what it is it can be fresher.

DS: It’s not us recreating Perry Ellis, because that never works for anyone. Also this is not Perry Ellis, this is Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown. It is a new day and it is a new designer label. So we have tried to be respectful to the heritage of what we think is valuable of Perry Ellis pre-1985 (ed. note: Perry Ellis died in 1986 but the brand continued), but beyond that this is a whole new ballgame.

SC: There doesn’t seem to be any archive of the mens so we haven’t seen any of the past collections. There were 104 DVDs given to us, and of course we didn’t watch all of them. I was only interested from when he was alive. So we put 3 videos on at a time and just had in them in a loop at the studio for a few days, and we had some interviews and fashion shows. But you know, fashion shows used to be like an hour and fifteen minutes!

DS: They were like one long cocktail party. Models drinking on the runway, eating on the apples.

SC: It was almost quite boring and I would notice some interesting things but…. I didn’t want to dive too deep into the archive of Perry Ellis because I already had a vision already of what I wanted for Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown early on, before we even got the job. It was basically, I wanted an army of khaki soldiers. I wanted 32 beautiful guys, different looking than the ducky brown casting, more clean cut, not American, but an American-European, a beautiful guy.

DS: Listen, for Duckie Brown, if you’re English and kind of ugly and weird looking we want you. There’s none of that here. We went for a more understandable beauty. This is a more commercial collection, we want to reach a bigger audience. Yes, it feels also, you can see our influence, but we’re going after a different piece of the market here so we had to tune ourselves accordingly.


EH: So how did you tune yourselves for something that’s more commercial?

DS: Duckie Brown is fashion with a big “F” and we want to make your blood boil and get a reaction out of you and change your eye as to how things can be worn or how things are supposed to be. Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown is that, but taken way down. It’s still a show but its for a wider audience. A more transatlantic sportswear collection.

SC: I don’t think taking it down are the right words. You look at it with different eyes. Separation. Sometimes people find it hard to separate. We do 5 lines. I don’t have the same head in every collection. I move it around. People sometimes may think they do Duckie Brown and that’s all they do. We don’t. We do Duckie Brown, Mr. Brown by Duckie Brown, Florsheim, we do this line in Korea and now, this. Its not less than or down, this was easier than doing Duckie Brown. I find it much easier to show it because Duckie Brown is much more particular, it’s a fantasy self. I wouldn’t wear all of Duckie Brown but I am wearing one of these pieces. Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown is done in a fashion format. I feel very confident with this collection and I don’t always feel confident about Duckie Brown.


DS: It’s our handwriting. With Duckie we had no constraints. For Perry Ellis we had the responsibility to maintain the integrity of a brand that once was, but to re create something new that felt relevant for today. The danger here is that you, as an audience member, will think we’re being too Duckie or being to Perry and it’s a very fine line for us to walk. I think we nailed it.

SC: I always think if I pushed it far enough. This season I didn’t push it far enough.

DS: People are going to think that we pushed it, trust me. We have an incredible work gold jacket with matching shorts and a gold mesh shirt.


EH: Now, tell us about all this Khaki. Not such Duckie or, really, outrageous material, but one that Perry Ellis himself was rather known for mastering.

DS: It’s fabric!

SC: We used the same mills as Duckie Brown. for Perry Ellis. Khaki is a very loose term. We start off with what you expect khaki to be and then we move through gold khaki, olive khaki, grey khaki, olive khaki and end with like, pink.

DS: We took the idea of khaki and exploded it. It’s 50 shades of khaki darling.



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Runway imagery photo credit: Dan & Corina Lecca


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Backstage imagery photo credit: Eli Schmidt