Originally launched in 2011 under designer J. Lindberg Swedish-American brand BLD DNM has relaunched as an entry-luxury brand, with an elevated price point, a fall/winter collection reveal during NYFW and plans for an NYC flagship opening later this year. Its visual renaissance also involves a new logo and typeface.
BLK DNM’s rebirth coincides with the appointment of fashion and retail virtuoso Tommy Fazio as President for North America, whose resume boasts names such as Calvin Klein, DKNY, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom. The creative direction will be stewarded by Jessy Heuvelink (Christian Lacroix, J.Lindeberg, Adidas) and the third name in the rebrand’s triumvirate is fashion industry veteran Toni Collin as CEO.
“I’ve known BLK DNM since it launched, and always admired the brand. But under Toni, and with Jessy’s creative direction, it’s something different entirely,” Tommy Fazio said in a statement. “In my mind, there is no doubt that BLK DNM will become the number-one brand in our space, in North America, and globally.”
FashionUnited visits the brand’s Wooster Street showroom to have a chat with Heuvelink via Zoom from Stockholm and to view the collection. A blend of fad-defying downtown chic and bohemian looks designed to be timeless, not just aesthetically but also in its craftsmanship and tailoring, empowering all people to draw on both masculine and feminine energies to suit their own emotions and styles.
While the women’s and men’s ranges share influences, ideas, materials, there are often hidden but thoughtful modifications made with the experience of the wearer in mind. Heuvelink points out a specific sleeve construction for women, for example, and the removal of cuff buttons “to create a more trumpet shape, and also because a lot of my female friends like to roll up the sleeve of their jacket.” Women’s coats are cut to achieve an elongated silhouette and often the leathers are more buttery and drapey than in the men’s versions.
Suits and coats evoking the heritage of French and British tailoring sit alongside sensually cut dresses reminiscent of Studio 54, and soft but eye-catching leathers and denims inspired by ‘70s Soho or ‘60s Paris. Military touches are sprinkled throughout. “One of my favorite pieces, something really special, is this military double breasted coat with metal buttons done in a material that’s very authentic from a fabric mill called Fox Brothers in the UK that have been producing materials for 250 years,” says Heuvelink. “This particular one was woven for soldiers in both the first and second world wars, in fact all of the outerwear that the British army wore was made out of that particular cloth, so it’s very interesting to bring that heritage into modern pieces.”
Leather jacket 50, the brand's classic biker, is to be created each season in new variations, with distinctive colors or treatments. One reimagining for fall is pony skin-patterned calf skin. 70s-inspired bomber jackets sit next to glamorous American sportswear. One daytime look which worked its way into both men’s and women’s was inspired by an image of Farrah Fawcett wearing a tweed blazer, denim flares and denim shirt. Languid velvet devoré dresses shot through with gold are inspired by Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface, one of the movies that influenced Heuvelink growing up. “A picture of her is imprinted in my brain,” he says, “I wanted to pay homage to her.” The material, he points out, comes from Soie de France, silk makers for over 150 years. A raw silk suit is made from material by Loro Piana which costs 250 euros per meter.
Graphic notes punctuate the blacks, charcoals, denims and dusty pink in the form of houndstooth or punky zebra print. Small crochet trims inserted in vertical pleated panels, and bow tie motifs provide intricate interest while a leather jacket bearing studs and fringe is, according to Heuvelink, “fantastic for evening when you want to make an entrance.”
Shearling jackets, velvet boleros, corduroy flares, and black tuxedos complete the range and there’s even an indirect influence of the Wild West. “There are a lot of cowboy references in the collection which are very personal to me,” explains Heuvelink. “My father who has never been to the US has always worn cowboy boots and a cowboy hat and has a huge collection of boots and hats from Texas that he orders online. Growing up, I was always embarrassed walking next to him, but now as a grown up I am proud that I can put those references in my collection.”
BLK DNM plans NYC store opening for fall 2023
For the NYC flagship, the Stockholm-based brand is seeking a large space where fans, new and old, can come to interact tangibly with the clothing, but which will also serve as a community hub featuring local artists and musicians. Says Heuvelink, "North America and Canada are still our primary markets so it will be great to be closer to the actual customers and spend more time there.” More stores in global fashion cities are projected.
The brand’s restructured pricing is as follows: Jerseys range from 100-250 dollars, while shirts and blouses range from 200-400 dollars depending on fabric and detail. Tailoring such as the tuxedo jacket comes in at 1200 dollars but the raw silk suit retails at 3500 dollars. Leather jackets go from 990 dollars for zipperless shirt jackets up to 2500 dollars.
Comparing the range under the new team with BLK DNM’s original launch is almost a fruitless exercise considering we have endured a retail apocalypse, the rise of digital, a global pandemic, heightened calls for sustainability, and transformation of customer behavior in the decade in-between, all of which can’t fail to have effected how Heuvelink approached the job. But he believes that consumer interest in BKL DNM remains as strong as ever. "Before I think we would see Sandro, Zadig Voltaire, those kind of brands, as competitors, but now I feel we don’t have much competition when it comes to our price strategy in entry level luxury,” he says. “We are trying to bridge the gap between premium and luxury and there I think we are pretty lonely, so it’s a golden opportunity.”
He doesn’t use the word “sustainable” but believes it is more modern to talk of responsibility. He encourages the consumer to prioritize ethical consumption just as he has woven responsibility into his design choices. “The brand is now more elevated. I like to spend a lot of time on materials and craftsmanship. I like the old traditions of tailoring,” he says. “The essence of BLK DNM is still the same. You don’t buy 20 leather jackets per year. You buy one every couple of years and cherish them for life.”
This prompts him to recall another memory from his formative years: having to save up for the Nike Air Max sneakers that all his friends had. When he could eventually realize his purchase, he felt an enormous sense of pride which ensured that he treated the shoes as something precious.
“I really want to encourage our customers to do the same. Buy less but buy better. The prices are raised but that is because we have invested so much more in the quality of the garments, which will be reflected in their longevity.”