Amidst the busy schedules and social furore of a fashion week, it is easy to lose track of what this incredibly creative and profitable industry can contribute to society. And it’s when one witnesses a runway show by British label DAKS that one is reminded of the high standards of creativity, quality and commercial nous that should be innate to the fashion world. For Spring/Summer 2013, and in the year that DAKS celebrates 50 years as holder of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Royal Warrant, Sheila McKain-Waid produced yet another polished, elegant and seductive range of garments that appealed with avidity to an audience of UK and international buyers and journalists.
McKain-Waid studied Apparel Design at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and completed a BA (Hons) degree in Textiles Design at the University of Kansas. Before moving to the UK to join DAKS in 2010, she honed her skills in dealing with luxury materials and craftsmanship for New York-based brands Halston, Donna Karan and Oscar De la Renta. With a personal appreciation for art and architecture (she once cited architect and artist Zaha Hadid as a role model), it is no surprise that her latest collection (and her third) for DAKS relies so much on the languages of painting and architecture, namely the free-form handwork of Abstract Expressionist artists such as Robert Motherwell, Jasper John and Clyfford Still. And, to emphasise the relationship between fashion and art, DAKS collaborated with mixed media textile designer Aimee Betts to create hand-stitched and embroidered fabrics, and with designer Alexandra Olenska to develop the collection’s delicate prints.
Expressive mark making, cross-hatched surface techniques and layered brush strokes (traditionally associated with Abstract Expressionism) have influenced the creative direction of this season’s fabric choice and cloth construction. Deep sculptural v-shapes occurred frequently in front and back of dresses, and patch pockets and drawstring trouser waists evoked the casual garb worn by painters. In addition, an overall feeling of weightlessness and fluidity was used to reinterpret the creative energy associated with this artistic movement. Gouache chalky shades and natural tints and hues formed the basis of the collection’s colour palette which, in its progressive transition from light to darkness (in the shape of white, ivory, rust, brown and black), explored the notions of opacity and transparency.
In addition to light garments and slouched cape-like jackets, for Spring/Summer 2013, DAKS recreates traditional house styles such as the trench coat and the parka in non-traditional semi-opaque fabrics such as sulk gazar and translucent nylon. The volume of these sheer pieces set against the draped softness of the daywear creates a contrast of proportions. Accents of bronze in the piping of outerwear pieces stress the idea of an almost architectural dialogue between light and heavy structures and materials in the same look. Furthermore, by layering the traditional graphic house check against fluid brush strokes, the brand reveals the intention to propel itself in a new direction.
In the accessories range, natural materials such as leather and straw paired with semi-translucent hardware reiterate the sense of lightness present in the clothes that is further accentuated by the introduction of ringback lizard skin for its complex surface pattern and luxury quality. Small box bags are worn as multiples, layering textures and colours, and adding interesting dimensions to each look.