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Inside Steven Alan

Introducing: Daryl K + Steven Alan

  • We’re really excited to introduce our Resort ’13 collaboration with one of New York’s downtown icons, Daryl K. While taking a break from styling the looks at our shoot, Daryl sat down and chatted with us (in her lovely Irish accent) about her early days in New York, the modern aesthetic she pioneered, and some of her favorite pieces from the collection.

    {Daryl K for Steven Alan Convertible Poncho, Daryl K leather leggings, and Chelsea Boot}

    You moved to New York from Ireland in the early 80′s. Was it planned or a spur of the moment kind of thing?
    I used to come here in the summers, first in 1983, and in college I would work here on summer breaks. I put myself through college and then I came back in ’86 and just stayed. Totally unprepared.

    We can’t imagine that would have been easy.
    It was, actually –  really easy. What age was I? I don’t know, I guess early 20′s.  I didn’t have my papers and all that, so I did a lot of waitressing work. I knew people in the movie business, so soon after,  I took a job in the movie business in wardrobe. I worked in wardrobe and costume design  in the movie business for 5 years. I worked with Jim Jarmusch, Joe Strummer, Tom Waits, Forrest Whittaker,  Marisa Tomei – a lot of great people  on a lot of cool independent movies. That was really great experience. You really learn a lot about America, western style, vintage denim, plaid, leather, boots, – everything that’s really a staple of American culture. How to pick out the perfect denim, or wool plaid or vintage print in a thrift store. Then ,when I needed to be more creative with fashion,  I opened my own store.

    What did you like to do then and where did you like to hang out?
    While I was in the movie business my friends were a lot of . . .  rock and roll people. I went to a lot of gigs around the city. It was incredible back then.  There were a lot of great clubs like Peppermint Lounge, The Ritz, CBGB’s, Danceteria, Paradise Garage, and so many more places to see great live music,  Johnny Cash, The Ramones, Talking Heads B-52′s, Donna Summer, Bowie. Later it was about the big clubs, The Palladium, Cocacabana, Sound Factory, Area, and Save the Robots, which was a legendary after hours club.  So at first, I saw a lot of live music and hung out with a gang of people where it was about beat up jeans, a great leather jacket, and a cool tee shirt,  to go out to rock and roll gigs.  Back then New York wasn’t a fashion city at all. There was not a big choice of cool stores, besides Charivari on 57th St or Pat Fields – everything was vintage. It was nothing like what it’s like today.

    When did you first start to feel like a New Yorker?
    I don’t think I ever really thought about that. It’s just seamless. You just live here. I always loved it here, from the moment I got here. I loved the freedom of expression that I had, compared to living in Ireland, which was kind of parochial, the people were not that enthusiastic about embracing other people’s desire to express themselves. New York is a great place for that, so I always felt really at home. What I loved about it – I think what made me feel like a New Yorker – was, especially in the movie business, I discovered that my best friends were not necessarily fashion people. Like I could be totally decked out in “my” fashion but I could be hanging out with a couple of doctors, but they loved  what I did and gave me a lot of encouragement. Back then it was very much about all kinds of people mixing together, being exposed to all types.  I loved that.  It was very exciting.

    {Daryl K for Steven Alan Fallon Seersucker Shirt, Stretch Silk Jodhpur, and Daryl K Chelsea Boot}

    You had your first store here in the East Village in the 90′s. What was the area like?
    It used to be a store called 99x. I took over their space. There was no fashion – just vintage stores. I remember when I opened up there, there was a woman who had a lingerie store on 7th Street which was a much more highly traveled street and she said [puts on a New York accent], “Oh my Gawd, you’re gonna die over there, that’s the piss street,” because there’s this other little street that runs through called Taras Shevchenko Place and all the bums pissed over there. It would stink. It was a really affordable rent for me as I’d just started out on my own. People found me.

    Who was your customer?
    A lot of artists, musicians, and creative people somehow found me. Word of mouth. I always had a really cute window. If you were heading to CB’s or on your way to the nightclubs you would pass by there and see it, and come back during the day. But I used to have my studio there in the back, and I used to work there late into the night,  and people would come in and hang out. People like Kim Gordon, who was one of my first customers, came all the time to the store. I would make a lot of things for her. Camilla Nickerson, from Vogue, came in very soon after I opened and became a regular.  Andrea Linett, who started Sassy magazine.

    Stylists and fashion editors who are now fixtures in the business. Some people who were very dear to me and passed away, some wild and crazy people who were too brilliant, too dazzling. It was a really wild time in New York. where people would have little art studios in a space they could never afford now, in a storefront just creating things and living and working there, maybe partying all night long and then making their work, and then going out all night again.

    It sounds like it was a really special time.
    Yeah, I think  it was a real window of discovery, a unique time for creative people, when they could  afford to live in New York city without working They could fully express themselves and have a receptive and appreciative audience and also party and socialize which was a vital part of creating this  multi-faceted community of creative people supporting each other’s endeavours.  You get older and you don’t know if it’s you,  or the time you live in now. ….but I hear a lot of kids say it, even my 11 year old appreciates the values from and recognizes the difference between what she hears and sees from the 80′s and 90′s and today.

    Even now, in 20 years, this will seem like a special time to our kids.

    {Daryl K for Steven Alan Stretch Silk Blazer, Stretch Silk Jodhpur, and Daryl K Chelsea Boot}

    Do you remember when you first started seeing people in your clothes?
    In the 90′s when the nightclub scene was really big, the club kids and the drag queens wore my clothes. .  That’s another scene that’s gone. But that was a really great thing, such creativity. Beginning in the 90′s, I would see my clothes on the girls in the street – that was when it really started to happen. When I did the low boot cut jean and the hoody, it was very much inspired by kind of a rock and roll look, a Ramones  look and feel with some Blondie thrown in too. You know, Converse, a skinny jean and a hoody that might have been a bit shrunken, and maybe a tiny shrunken leather jacket, a lot of the same pieces that are around today. I think my legacy or history or whatever you want to call it, is, I guess that  I’m a kind of  trendsetter. Almost everything I started with are still looks that you would wear today. If somebody walked in here with it, you wouldn’t even know when it was from. It wouldn’t look dated – it would just look like  part of the wardrobe of today.

    You introduced a lot of different styles that are still popular today, including the leather leggings that you’re wearing, and the boot cut pant. How does it feel to see something you started become the trend, and even live beyond that to become the prevalent style?
    The leather leggings are from 1999, those boots that everyone wears today – you know, the little low-heeled cowboy boot shape – I  started selling those in my store on Bond St. in 2004, maybe – which is from a cut down Giorgio Brutini boot, which is like a men’s Spanish style zip up side ankle boot. I used to sell so many of those. How does it feel? Like it’s not true most of the time !

    Having pioneered a downtown aesthetic, how do you think your style has changed or evolved over the years?
    Look at me, I’m still wearing my black leather leggings, which are just a staple of my wardrobe, and now I think every single girl could and should own a pair of these, they change your life.  I feel fashion has changed a lot but I feel it can always be updated. To me, today there’s a little too much fashion going on and not enough style. There’s a lot of fashion, and not enough substance. I liked what we shot today because it was reinvention of some classic looks. It’s always nice to see how even when I put my clothes in a shoot, I can see, oh, it looks new or it looks fresh again. And really, it doesn’t change that much for me. Of course my style has evolved, it’s always going to keep evolving, but there are signature  looks that are always going to be a constant, and you can pick them out in the silhouettes. The pant styles, the cuts, haven’t changed a whole lot.  And almost everything I’m doing now, I’ve done in some way in the past. The clothes I design, I wear, and therefore I believe they are going to work. That’s what really works for me, if I want it, it’s “wanted”.

    It’s no wonder it’s been so successful and remains so relevant today.
    How it always remains relevant, is because if  you want it, it’s going to be relevant. The relevance is a natural evolution of the “want.”

    {Daryl K for Steven Alan Tie Dye Empty Dress and Daryl K Kerrigan Cowgirl Boot}

    How did the collaboration between you and Steven come about?
    I’m very much  organic in terms of letting things happen and seeing what naturally comes about. We were both up at the Met at the Schiaparelli and Prada opening there. We just bumped into one another and hadn’t seen each other for a long, long time. Steven knew I’d just closed my store and asked me what I was doing,  I told him ” I’m just  figuring it out,” because I didn’t have any immediate plans, and he was like, “Hey, why don’t we do something together?” We just met up within a few days and planned it. The pieces we both feel embodied the collab most I think is the ticking striped suit, which is a great little jacket I’ve done before called the Richard jacket, with a cute pair of boy style pants, a style that is a derivation of one from “back in the day!”

    I’ve run my own business for a long time and handled way too many aspects of it, out of necessity. I’m really enjoying working with Steven because what I want to do is create the clothes and style the shoots. I would rather not take care of every aspect of the business. That was fine to start, and it’s a great learning experience. My collab with Steven works well also because it allows me to have direct contact with the customer, which has always been very valuable to me as a designer.

    In designing the resort collection with Steven, which draws on some of your signature styles, what was important for you to keep, and what’s something new or different that you did this time around?
    The pieces I kept are the pieces that  are classics, new classics. There’s a  beautiful little stretch silk blazer.  I’m really into tailoring  lightweight fabrics like  stretch silk. So when you wear it, you have the look of a tailored jacket, which  looks sharp, but the feel of a cardigan, and you can layer other pieces on top of it.  It’s refined and classic.  There’s a stretch silk jodhpur cut also – it’s a winter/summer piece that you can wear with the jacket, a great ”suit ” or uniform.

    What do you feel is really special about the two boot styles, and how would you wear them?
    The Chelsea flat boots with the really high shine is a great boot I wear all the time. I love to wear them with the leather leggings for a clean, unbroken line you on the leg. My personal proportions are quite regular, so I find that anything I can do for myself to elongate my own leg, tends to work. They’re an amazing walking boot, I wear them in the summer with dresses too.  The western Cowgirl boot with the higher heel has also got that kind of seamless leg because of the way it’s fitted into the ankle. It’s very flattering to the leg.and  also extremely comfortable. You can wear both of them with no socks because they’re all leather, and  handmade.

    Daryl K for Steven Alan Convertible Poncho with Daryl K leather leggings, and Chelsea Boot}

    We talked about how you were very much inspired by the rock and roll scene when you first started. What continues to inspire you today as a designer?
    Color and how to apply color onto the body within the prints is of interest to me at present.  Nature is an endless inspiration to me. I like to work with digital prints taken from nature, woods,  trees, leaves in various seasons. But what I find really inspiring is what a woman needs. That inspires me to create something, because there’s a need for it and it feels right.  Cultural, economic and environmental issues in the world and my attitude to what’s happening in the world today will inspire how I  want to present myself. Because to me fashion is very much about how you present and represent yourself to the world. You’re respectful of what’s going on around you . You represent your feelings through how you look, which is what gives fashion an intellectual aspect. A lot of my customers are artists and people in the creative arts,  - that inspires me. I enjoy the art world often a little more than I enjoy the fashion world.  Musicians have always been an inspiration also, mostly males.  But, I don’t like too much fashion without style, it gets in the way,  I like to take away, pare down and keep it so that when  you meet someone , they’re not like, “oh, fashion, fashion, fashion,” and there’s so much to get beyond to get to you, to have a little more mystery of character.  There’s quite a lot in it, really, a lot more than meets the eye. What’s wonderful is when you meet a women who gets what you’re saying . . . I’ve met some very wonderful women who also happen to be my customers!

    Are there any neighborhoods or any things about New York right now that you think are really interesting/emerging?
    I’m someone who is always drawn to the fringe cultures, the fringe neighborhoods. I won’t  be going to Soho or Noho to find inspiration. I’ll be more likely to go to Spanish Harlem or to Jackson Heights  or maybe go down to Austin, Texas and seek out people who are expressing themselves through their music. I  enjoy going to Chelsea and to the galleries. That  feeds my soul . It’s  one of the nicest things to go there with my painter friends and look around. I do love that.

    Many thanks to Daryl! You can find Daryl K and Daryl K for Steven Alan Resort ’13 at our Tribeca, Chelsea, Brooklyn, Nolita, Venice, Fillmore, and La Brea stores, as well as in our web shop.

    This entry was posted on Monday, December 10th, 2012 at 10:39 am and is filed under In Stock, New Arrivals. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

4 Responses to “Introducing: Daryl K + Steven Alan”

  1. Wini says:

    Love Daryl K. My favorite boots In the world are from her

  2. peggy says:

    So pleased to see this most organic and approriate collab….was out of the country when that pop-up came around and saddnened to have missed out; also to have missed out on those $400 leather leggings…..stil have any left ?

  3. Jaydonone says:

    I absolutely love you fashion styles. I’d love to buy so many of you clothes. You’ve now become one of my Number ONE Designers. You rate up there w/ Michael Kors, Llouvier, Corolina, and a few others who I admire. Keep up the wonderful work!!

  4. Wattsrocks says:

    I enjoyed reading this article and taking a walk down memory lane with a cup of tea and some holiday cookies while my 18 month old daughter was napping. Daryl K has always been one of my favorite designers. Her style always spoke to me and her designs just seem to fit my figure perfectly. I am so sad that she closed her shop though. :( I loved popping in for inspiration and the sample sales (the only time I could really afford her clothes). I guess the Steven Alan is store is where I can go now to find her clothes? I can’t buy online – must try things on.

    Oh and I remember that lingerie store on 7th st. I went in there in college one day to splurge on my first pair of nice thongs. She was NOT nice to me. So she can go “piss” off…jokes on her – lol!