At London Fashion Week in February, Brit brand DAKS provided yet further proof of their talent at creating a new slant on traditional motifs in state-of-the-art garments. Both men's and women's autumn-winter 2010 collections could be described as aviator chic. They are clearly inspired by 1940s flying gear (Amelia Earhart comes to mind), and more specifically by RAF uniform. The details that communicate this reach-for-the-sky spirit include colours like black, grey, navy, grass green and, above all, camel and beige, with accents of red and berry recalling RAF insignia. The characteristically slim-tailored silhouettes typical of air force uniforms come to the fore in the collection, reinforced by motifs such as two military pockets on blouses, fur collars and cloche hats reminiscent of the men who flew the Sopwith Camel.
The materials themselves have a historical reference. In the early days of flight, with unheated cockpits open to the elements, classic tweeds and British milled cloths were used for warmth and durability, and the DAKS autumn-winter 2010 collection likewise features plain wool, Prince of Wales check and pinstripe. It's principally about outerwear, with trench, duffel and pea coats, as well as chunky cable-knit garments. The English town-and-country heritage is still there, as in the House check coat with deerstalker hat, but all in all DAKS is charting new areas of style, with details including jodhpurs with quilted patches, and mannish blazers in camel creating a casual and sporty feel. Period-style knee-length skirts are projected into the future with long dresses and knitwear cardigans. Accessories offer yet more references to the past, such as in the lace-up shoes. These are two-tone black and silver or gold with matching socks, in a consummately witty visual link to the grey-blacks or beiges that dominate the outfits.
The same sort of approach extends to the men's collection, which is orchestrated in supreme style by the DAKS hallmark of giving quality tailoring a contemporary design edge. Creative director Filippo Scuffi has worked with harmonising blacks and greys in tailored shirts in soft fabric over dark grey trousers with low-slung belts. A tongue-in-cheek take on evening dress features a high tech quilted jacket, aviator-type hat and close-fitting trousers, with the formal elements limited to just the bow-tie and high gloss black shoes. DAKS men are confidently casual in garments whose assured style takes them through from day to evening.
Scuffi's previous experience and stylistic instinct has paid dividends in powering DAKS' reinvention of its trad Brit image. His previous experience includes work at Michael Kors, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren, as well as designing DAKS' golf and childrenswear collection. This enabled him to achieve a fine balance in the difficult task of moving a brand with a vast, historic heritage into a realm of chic, contemporary styling. In Scuffi's own words, "I like to take classic fashion pieces such as the dinner shirt or trench coat and translate them into a completely different garment using their detailing as my inspiration."
DAKS has embraced the future in terms of marketing as well as style. Its e-commerce site, shoponline.daks.com, offers ready-to-wear womenswear, menswear and the ancillary accessories collections to customers in the UK and Europe. The website reflects the values that have hallmarked DAKS throughout its history: luxury garments, alongside faultless customer service and aftercare. It is intuitive and easy to use, with cross-referenced clickpaths enabling users to assemble an outfit based on matches or contrasts as preferred, and a lookbook that provides a convenient overview of the current collection.
The company's website makes discreet reference to the marque's enviable heritage by means of three coveted Royal Warrants. As a preferred supplier to HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales. DAKS is certainly not a company that rests on its laurels, but these three accolades bear tribute to a history dating back to 1894, when Simeon Simpson founded a bespoke tailing business in Whitechapel, London, supplying high-quality men's clothing shops.
The name DAKS arrived much later, in the mid 1930s, a curious invention combining "Dad" and "slacks." Under the new marque, the company became the largest manufacturer of top quality menswear in Britain. The House Check was introduced in 1976, and this quickly became an international symbol for the brand – appearing in the fall-winter 2010 collections just as in previous ranges.
Today, DAKS apparel is exported to 30 countries, and sold in 2,000 retail outlets worldwide. It is particularly strong in Asia, with stores in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. In Korea, it is the number one non-domestic brand. The flagship store at 10 Old Bond Street, London W1, provides the perfect showcase for the house style, with a unique design concept over a total area of nearly one thousand square metres. DAKS, one of Britain's top fashion companies, is looking to the future with justifiable confidence, while never losing touch with the values of quality, reliability and innovation established by Simeon Simpson over a century ago.
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London FW 2010