When Jim Duran couldn’t find good menswear, he designed his own
As a fashion-conscious gay man with a forward-looking sense of style, Jim Duran has always been on the lookout for the Next Big Thing in design. As a loyal Dallasite, he hoped to find it locally. He discovered cutting edge women’s fashions easily, but when Duran searched for the same in menswear … well, he came up short.
“I had trouble finding pieces I’d want to wear,” he sighs.
So he did what any enterprising fashionista would do given his background: He designed his own.
It wasn’t even a year ago when Duran first got the itch to create a line of menswear that was both fashionable and wearable, body flattering and comfortable (few finely-fitted pieces), at home on the runway or the sidewalk. And later this month, the debut collection from his label, BLKLN (“Black Line”), will launch.
As the name suggests, Duran has stuck with a monochromatic color scheme: White, black, silver and (dare we say it) 50 shades of gray. As it evolves, he may add more color components but “I always want the base color to be black,” he says. (Hey, once you go BLKLN …)
And it’s all for men — more or less.
“My background is in women’s fashion, but I started to build a collection that could appeal to anyone who appreciates my aesthetic,” he says.
Duran admits his aesthetic isn’t traditional — he wanted to offer Texas men a new perspective.
“It’s different for Dallas, which seems formulaic [in terms of men’s fashion]. I wanted to give people like myself an option to go edgy. I didn’t design for the typical Southern beefcake. I like tattoos. There’s definitely an androgynous look, but it’s very minimal, very streamlined, very rock ‘n’ rock.”
To Duran, that means such motifs as leggings, extended tanks (one long enough to be worn as a dress, if someone chose), sheer fronts and silver denim, both in jackets and pants.
“A lot of this line was inspired by the fabrics themselves. I’ll look at it and say, ‘I can make that pop.’ So I’ll sketch a look with a single focal point, then I intermix the pieces to create a ‘look,’” he explains.
After the sketching comes the patterns, the construction, the manufacturing and more details than he can count (Duran works with a design director in charge of the actual sewing).
Starting from scratch to create a line targeted exclusively at men (womenswear designers are everywhere) took fortitude, but also a belief that Duran could not only design a product with a point of view the market needed, but that he could construct such a line in a way he’d be proud of.
And while launching his own label is new to him, Duran says he wasn’t caught off guard by too many of the bumps in going from idea to market. One of the only surprises was resourcing.
“Something as simple as a zipper was hard to custom order” to his specifications and standards.
Duran also isn’t doing this as a vanity project, but as something he can customize for clients.
“Ninety-nine percent of the line is made so if someone wants a piece, I could put in an order made of the same fabric.”
For now, Duran is focused on getting his BLKLN up and running with the launch party at the ilume on Nov. 13. Then comes the task of taking orders, getting his name out there and lining up local retailers interested in carrying his line. (He’s on a first-name basis with many shops and has already fielded some interest.) But down the road, he has greater aspirations.
“Ideally, I’d love to be in Forty Five Ten — that’s a dream [retailer] for all young designers,” he says. “And one day, I’d love to dress Mick Jagger.”
Hmmm … fashion-forward androgynous menswear with a rock ‘n’ roll vibe? Sounds like a match.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 2, 2012.