WHAT’S AHEAD FOR DKNY

Byline: Eric Wilson

NEW YORK — Helmut Lang created a case for the artistic elements of American fashion when he moved his show to the front of the fashion calendar in 1998 and all of New York followed. But Donna Karan has an idea that she thinks will help fashion’s commercial side, by going in the opposite direction. She wants to stage her fall collections not in February, like everyone else, but in September, when it’s actually fall.
To some, the idea might seem a little nutty, as it no doubt will to magazine editors who work with long lead times or to retailers who place their orders well in advance or to journalists who want to see what’s new, when it’s news.
But she’s serious.
Karan’s just now conceptualizing how it all might work, but she’s “thinking about doing it very strongly,” she said, as a reaction to the impact that earlier fashion shows have had on the industry overall. Her idea is that the press and stores would still see the collections a season in advance, but in the showroom, while her runway shows would be repackaged for the public to get consumers excited about what’s going to be in stores right away.
“Instead of getting into the whole hype of the coming season, I’d like to focus on what’s in store right now,” said the designer during a showroom presentation of the fall DKNY men’s and women’s collections on Tuesday, the first time in its 10-year history that the brand hasn’t staged a runway show.
“I think that we as a global industry should shift the shows because talking about fall before people are shopping for spring is affecting retail,” Karan added. “This is pushing the fashion cycle so fast that the consumer is confused. We should be talking spring, spring, spring. I’ve always said that we are design-driven, but retail-focused.”
Since the show dates were moved up, consumers have had access to the following season’s trends at the same time they are shopping for the current season. Several retailers have said this has had an impact on what customers buy, both for better and for worse. Designers have also expressed concerns that stores have sometimes changed or canceled a current season order based on what they’re seeing for the future.
Karan philosophized that, if everyone showed their current-season wares on the runway, then customers would be more inspired to shop. She’s also working to merchandise her men’s and women’s collections at the same time in her showroom, so that the press and buyers can visualize them as they would appear in one of her 16 company-owned DKNY stores or the 62 freestanding licensed stores.
But for old time’s sake, Karan previewed her fall DKNY collections to editors, saying she had intended to return to classic elements of sportswear and “how to put them all together again.” The women’s collection featured neutral sweaters knit with wisps of fur, raw-edged fur coverlets, washed leather, suede or shearling pants and coats and riding pants and boots.
“I’ve gone back to the classics,” she said. “This is sexy and raw, it’s very natural. The general mood of fashion had become a little plasticized. It was uptown dressing, and to wear it, you had to be that person instead of being who you are. This is a return to dressing for yourself.”

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