A few weeks ago, we showed you a trailer for The Guts of Duckie Brown, a documentary about Duckie Brown designers Steven Cox and Daniel Silver. Last night, I attended a private screening of the very short (about 15 minutes long) film. It’s not the most in-depth documentary I’ve ever seen, but it is very entertaining and well-done and, despite its short length, is successful at telling a story that conveys what Duckie Brown is about and how Steven and Daniel’s partnership works.
The young director/cinematographer Lina Pliopyte, for whom Guts is the longest film on her resumé, accomplished this by dividing the doc into three vignettes, each of which explores one of the following themes: partnership, gender and the creative process. Each theme, we learn, is met with different challenges and triumphs but the overruling message of the film was very clear–Stephen and Daniel are who they are and therefore Duckie Brown is what it is and after 10 years in business together that hasn’t change and it never will. They basically just do what they want, regardless of whether or not it makes money, which is pretty unique and commendable in a time where the goal of most fashion brands is, understandably, to turn a profit.
Also, they are very entertaining to watch. The real Steven and Daniel almost overshadowed their own documentary. A Q+A session that followed the documentary lasted about twice as long and gave the designers a chance to expand upon some of the issues they touched on in the unfortunately short film. Here are seven very interesting things we learned:
They are slowly expanding womenswear (!).
But, they aren’t ready to send it down a runway yet. When asked why they started with menswear, Steven responded, “because we are men.” Daniel, on the other hand, said it was because he felt they could “make more of a splash” with menswear. They’ve gone the route of most designers who start out with menswear and just essentially designed the same clothes for women, but feel that will make it more successful. Granted, unlike most menswear designers, their clothing is already largely womenswear-inspired. They’ve also been picked up by many of the same retailers that carry their men’s stuff.
They wish there could be a proper men’s fashion week in New York.
They feel their menswear would be taken more seriously if menswear had its own fashion week in New York, like in Paris, instead of being lumped in with womenswear, arguing, “to be considered serious you have to go to Paris.”
They are basically kept afloat by their footwear collaboration with Florsheim.
Century old American footwear brand Florsheim approached the Duckies about collaborating on a footwear line back in 2009 and the now very successful Florsheim by Duckie Brown was born. They said they were very lucky that Florsheim “found us” and it’s basically the only thing they make money off of. “We would have died with out that,” said Steven.
One of their biggest problems with the fashion industry is its homophobia and the fact that no one is willing to talk about it.
Apparently, their clothes are often criticized as being “too gay” and unfit for mainstream men’s fashion magazines that are supposedly targeted towards “real men,” an image that the Duckies feel is overly heteronormative. They’ve even humorously but appropriately renamed this phrase they hear so often “reel men,” meaning men in movies, like Steve McQueen “who was a wifebeater and alcoholic anyways” and other archetypes that “mean nothing.”
They wouldn’t buy their own clothes.
“I mean, I’m not buying $350 shirts,” said Daniel. They totally acknowledge that they make clothes for rich people, not because they only want rich people to wear their clothes, but because that’s how expensive their clothes are to produce in the garment district and the only reason they produce in the garment district is because they don’t make enough volume to “get things made by a 12-year-old in China.”
They’ve gotten offers from investors and a “huge English brand” but won’t take them.
The Duckies only work with people they like who give them the freedom to do whatever they want, which is understandably hard to find in a collaborator or investor. They also just “don’t want to work with assholes.”
They would totally do a fragrance and an underwear line to make money.
They just haven’t gotten any attractive offers and probably don’t have time to seek them out. If they do a fragrance, they want it to be in one of those old-fashioned perfume bottles with a pump, even if it’s for men. If that’s something you’re interested in, big fragrance companies, give them a call.
Overall, they like what they’re doing and they’re happy. Isn’t that what really matters?
Also, they are funny. Check out two more clips from the film (and the one above) for evidence.