Basic. It’s one of the oft-used and funniest pejoratives of the past decade. The object of scorn is the basic-bitch, those who allowed themselves to be dressed or overdressed by the expectations of society, lacking in individuality with no flavor of their own to draw upon. What about the other meaning of basic? It could also mean unadorned, essential or simple—a platonic ideal.
In Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s wry film Mistress America the main character is described as having the “rare beauty that makes you want to look more like yourself.” I think that line is at the heart of what we truly perceive as style. The opposite of the “basic bitch” is someone who’s clothing brings out their best qualities while still preserving their essential self. The person wears the clothes and not the other way around.
Generally fashion is the pursuit of novelty, a relentless fetish for change, but there are a few designers who season-to-season refuse to reinvent the wheel and instead subtly adjust and tinker with their existing silhouettes; and why not? If it was truly good then it is good. Among these are long time veterans like England’s Margaret Howell, or the flamboyant Massimo Alba or newer cult Japanese brands like Niuhans and French high fashion don Christophe Lemaire. Needless to say it's an approach we respect.
Among the North American designers who take this slow and steady approach is Dana Lee and her eponymous cult brand. Year after year she created collections that offered a subtle take on North American casual-wear and refines it into paired back staples: henleys, robust chinos, denim chore coats and sweats. Lee has been quiet for a couple seasons. As she focuses on her young family she has less time for creating full collections. Fortunately, the designer announced via her newsletter that she will be producing a rolling selection of her best pieces for sale via her website which she's calling the stock program.
This capsule collection is pretty paired back compared to previous work (she has a flair for colour and fabric similar to Massimo Alba, with painterly tones that most designers ignore) but the strength of the designer’s iterative approach comes through with each piece feeling like it could slot into an everyday wardrobe. A highlight is the chore coat in a creamy ecru denim (with matching shorts) and the mid-century style tropical shirt with spread collar in a Japanese cotton. If you're a fan of the slow approach to fashion there should be something here you'll find appealing. This is basic at it’s elemental best. The basic that you wear until it falls apart, that you end up washing until it’s butter soft, the basic that needs no fanfare to make people look twice.
Shop the collection here.