British heritage label DAKS sheds its stuffy image

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 October, 2014, 11:09am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 November, 2014, 7:55pm

Many beloved British heritage brands have undergone revivals in recent years. There was Burberry, which went from grandma-in-the-highlands trench coats, to chequered chav, which now, under the direction of Christopher Bailey, is one of the most successful, edgy, iconic British brands.

Then there have been the turnarounds of Mulberry and Aquascutum. DAKS is another label dusting off its fusty double-breasted mothball trench coat image by injecting a bit of modernity and young blood. The label showed off this new approach at its 120th anniversary celebrations in Hong Kong this month.

"My idea is to take a cue from all those stylistic details in traditional English tailoring. I'm trying to propose them in conjunction with new volumes, shapes, fabrics and trendy colours to meet contemporary needs," says Filippo Scuffi, the brand's creative director.

Conservative classics are what DAKS does best: double-breasted wool suits, military inspired waterproof trench coats, and sensible trousers and skirts. The label still makes these, and elegantly so, but now there's also a hint of that covetable Brit cool, too.

Founded in 1894, DAKS became known for its ready-to-wear tailoring and rose to popularity with its adjustable waistband trousers. Since then, the brand has gone on to become one of several quintessential English heritage brands, earning three Royal warrants.

Since 2007, when Giles Deacon was appointed creative director, the DAKS brand has been undergoing a quiet modern revival.

Three years later Scuffi, who had previously worked at Donna Karan, Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren, was tapped to take over the helm as creative director of DAKS. He had already curated collections such as the DAKS Golf sportswear line, and the E1 menswear second line.

Scuffi's job was to rejuvenate the brand, while staying true to its heritage. Recent collections have seen him focus on quality materials and tailoring, with a more contemporary flavour.

The spring-summer 2015 menswear collection drew inspiration from Russian constructivist art of the 1920s.

Knitwear featured colourful slices of geometric shapes and prints, sharp tailoring and mixed textures. The collection was given a playful and quirky twist, with tailored shorts that looked like they came straight out of a public school, and transparent PVC raincoats.

The womenswear collection was also shown on the catwalk in Hong Kong. Scuffi says he "got carried away" by the charm of London's Royal Opera House. "It was easy to get inspired by the ballet," he says.

The collection, which was first presented under the glass dome atrium of the Royal Opera House at London Fashion Week earlier this year, featured balletic silhouettes juxtaposed with the house's precision tailoring in a palette of soft greys, violets and pastel metallic.

Skirts floated down the runway, with fabrics so light that they trailed behind the models like wisps of smoke. Plume-edged dresses and sleeves were reminiscent of Swan Lake, and there was sharp structured tailoring in chic cigarette pants and pencil skirts.

But those DAKS staples are still there; the house check gets a reworking, playing with colours and size, and printed on unusual materials such as fur.

For this year's anniversary, DAKS produced a special check for ladies' and men's jackets. One obvious sign that the brand is going for a cooler, more urban aesthetic, is the autumn-winter 2014 campaign billboards.

These feature British rock aristocrat Paul Weller, former frontman of The Jam, and his musical daughter Leah Weller.