NEW YORK — Max Wilson, Dana Buchman’s creative director, isn’t the classic career dresser.
On Monday, he put the finishing touches on his first collection for the label wearing an ecru cashmere sweater, corduroy jeans and white Puma sneakers accentuated with striped blue socks.
Wilson couldn’t be more different from Buchman, the quietly spoken Baby Boomer and vice president of design of the eponymous company, who that day was pairing a black knitted top with black pants.
Yet both said their professional union couldn’t be a better fit. With the fall collection, Wilson is taking over the creative direction of the Buchman division of Liz Claiborne, and it is widely expected he will put a fresh spin on the bridge label. In a twist, Buchman said she was in such agreement with Wilson’s aesthetic that he practically had “carte blanche” to do as he pleased with the brand, which includes the Collection, Casual and db Life labels. “Max has a lot of freedom, and then I come in and get wowed,” she said.
Wilson comes to the brand with a background in designer collections. He worked at Polo Ralph Lauren for 11 years, eventually as vice president of women’s design, and, for less than a year in 2004, he was vice president of women’s apparel at Sean John. More recently, he taught at Parsons The New School of Design, which he has continued to do part-time since joining Dana Buchman last October.
“I hope to bring a modern edge, a luxury, a sense of fresh proportions, an energy,” Wilson said. “I will take what exists and explode it; make it more feminine, more chic with a designer mentality, so it feels like a collection. You have the hallmarks of the brand — femininity and quality — and tweak them. The thing I want to do is to take the Dana look, which is very pulled together, and make it seem more effortless.”
Wilson comes to Buchman at a crucial time. The move to bring him in could be seen as a sign that Claiborne is looking to fix the brand, which by the mid-Nineties had become a leader in bridge departments, but has been struggling recently. Over the last few seasons, Buchman has tried to update her aesthetic, and Claiborne has indicated the business has been on a healthier track. According to sources, Dana Buchman’s total annual volume is in excess of $150 million.“I wanted one voice to be in charge of the three labels,” said Buchman, who is entering her third decade in business. “I make different kinds of product as well as licensed product. I want there to be consistency across all of Dana Buchman.”
She added that she continued to address the same customer, and hoped to attract a new one with Wilson on board.
“The customer will notice a difference,” Wilson promised. “The shapes are a little more dramatic; there is a lot of collar interest. The play of proportion and the way things are put together will be different. It’s how you put it all together.”
In his new role, Wilson comes up with monthly themes and puts together a collection “in the spirit of the house,” he said. The fall themes include “Russian Princess,” “Mod,” “Town & Country” and “City Safari.” “I think Max’s fresh perspective is just what my customer is looking for,” Buchman said.
For fall, looks include a red patent leather trench, a plaid wool coat with exaggerated collars, a platinum silk satin crepe dress with Victorian sleeve details and gunmetal leather jeans. “There is a fashion but a timelessness to them,” said Wilson. “These are designs to be worn by real people.”
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