For the past few seasons, Steven Cox and Daniel Silver of Duckie Brown have been selling their collection exclusively by appointment from their West Village studio. The prospect of “By Appointment Only” may have once been a symbol of gatekeeping and exclusivity, but here it’s more like being welcomed into someone’s home for a meal made home (indeed, their studio was their apartment before decamping to Brooklyn). The videos they post on their Instagram account take their modus operandi further away from a stuffy luxury environment, where Cox tries on clothes while he and Silver discuss cuts and colors or whatever comes to mind. . They invite viewers to ask them questions or make an appointment to see the clothes in person.
Don’t be fooled by their irreverent attitude, though, the clothes they make are serious in their approach to fit, fit and fabric, even when the result is a pair of tiny French lace running shorts. (or in silk, or a cotton veil), or a “high-waisted pantyhose” that can be pulled up to the top of the head, as seen in the first look of the collection. The first looks, in fact, are variations of a sporty bodybuilder silhouette dressed all in black: a maxi t-shirt, a small tank top, leggings, long tubes of fabric that can be used as cuffs or leggings, a pair of perfectly boxy bath. The Duckies don’t believe in noble inspirations. They’ve been doing this for over 20 years and their inspiration is simply…themselves. “Twice a week we do Gyrotronics with a very strict German ballet dancer named Wilma,” Cox explained. He shows me a photo of him lying on a mat in a pilates pose, then a simplified drawing of lines made with a large black marker that is actually a sketch for the spandex pieces. “We worked with Daniel Storto – I’ve known him since I was 19 – and he’s a glove designer who lives in Gloversville, where all the gloves were made. He shaped all these pieces, he’s a amazing talent,” Cox said. A pink silk organza bomber jacket worn with bright fuschia wide-leg pants had its roots in a version they had done in raw denim years ago that he had recently discovered in digging through her closet.” I don’t know where that came from, but I needed a rose flower at the end [of the collection]Cox said.) He was also pleased to find that he had randomly found light pink snaps at a downtown store that matched the jacket perfectly and didn’t have to special order them.
It’s little details like these that make their clothes so special, beyond just being gorgeous and desirable. Trousers with a kind of wrap-around belt in lilac silk – which they washed – paired with a crombie jacket in tea-soaked silk organza. “It’s such classic English [silhouette]but it completely collapses [in the fabric]”, explained Cox. “It’s so wrong, but so right.” Following this “so wrong but so right” energy, they also created body-hugging versions of the Crombie jacket in wool jersey and spandex fabric “from Spandex House on 37th Street”. Likewise, their signature pair of pants with a 48-inch waist intended to be tucked, gathered, or otherwise adjusted to the wearer’s preferred fit originated from the pants worn by “Sal”, the accountant for a former shirt-maker they used to work. with at Greenpoint. While showing me a jacket made with the “lining fabric” on the outside, Cox said they used to get the fabric from “some guy from Delancey Street”. It’s a fabulous piece.
We know that clothes are an intimate form of self-expression, it’s personal, and over time the clothes in our wardrobe become entangled with the stories of the things we’ve experienced. So it feels like at Duckie Brown, Cox and Silver imbue the clothes with their own stories before they even arrive in their customers’ closets. They produce in very small quantities – 10 of these shirts, three of these jackets – and after spending an hour in their studio, it feels like they’ve found the exact way to exist in the world with purpose and happiness. “We’ve been together for 30 years,” Silver explained. “And I think the key is to pivot. We try to get out of the loop all the time. There’s an arc in everything we do, and some people agree to do it for the long haul. And others like us [are thinking], ‘Let’s go this way. Let’s pivot. Let’s dream a little new.’ Their clothes also let others have new dreams.