With a confident, print-centric spring collection, Jonathan Saunders debuts as DVF's first-ever Chief Creative Officer.
“Printed textiles were always something I loved, so there is a definite synergy,” says Jonathan Saunders of his interpretation of the iconic DVF brand.
The name Diane von Furstenberg evokes a rush of unique attributes: femininity, empowerment, confidence, grace. It also conjures New York itself. So when designer Jonathan Saunders presented his first collection for the iconic brand for Spring/Summer 2017, many wondered how a man from Scotland might interpret the vision of a worldly New York woman. The answer, it turns out, is quite successfully.
“I saw it straight away— that effortless sense of ease, femininity without being too girly or frou-frou, sensuality, and a provocative nature,” says Saunders, 39, who built his name in London with his eponymous, print-heavy collection (which shuttered in late 2015 after 12 years in business), and who is now Diane von Furstenberg’s first creative head not named Diane von Furstenberg. “Textiles, and printed textiles in general, were always something I loved, so there is a definite synergy between what I stand for and what the brand stands for.”
As von Furstenberg herself steps away from designing to focus more on her philanthropic work, Saunders has segued with ease into the newly created role of chief creative officer. With about three months to present his first collection—which features original Saunders prints—there wasn’t much time to sweat the small stuff. “It was definitely a baptism by fire,” he says. “But there was such goodwill and belief within the team about what I wanted to do, which enabled me to go in with the velocity that was required to put a collection together within that period of time.”
That velocity-driven result is a lively, eclectic mix of printed separates, including bold, wide-legged trousers, structured outerwear, flowing skirts, versatile shifts, and, yes, wrap dresses that stay true to the brand’s DNA. Printed silks and cottons—from an eye-catching Sakura blossom pattern to more graphic stripes and color blocking—create an overall sense of playful fluidity. Unsurprisingly, Saunders says he turned to dancers and choreographers such as Michael Clark and Pina Bausch when conjuring up the new silhouettes, noting, “Dancers are incredible examples of body movement and sensuality.”
And while DVF devotees will appreciate Saunders’s respect for the label’s heritage, he didn’t shy away from threading his own point of view throughout. One wrap-style dress in particular manages to combine a mixture of seemingly every print in the collection—a testament to his willingness to venture into unexpected territory. “When Diane started the brand, it was about effortless clothes, but also interesting clothes. These weren’t simple retiring dresses—they were bold, bright dresses that happen to have a sense of ease,” he says. “That still feels really relevant today.” Saks Fifth Avenue, Tysons Galleria, 703-761-0700