Daryl K Dishes on ‘90s Fashion, Rocking Out with the Ramones & Her New Madewell Collection

Daryl K. 

There are few designers that resonate in hearts of fashion girls like Daryl Kerrigan. True fans of her Daryl K. label can recite her past like as if it was their own. A native of Ireland, she moved to New York City at the age of 22, first serving as a wardrobe consultant on films like Mystery Train and My Cousin Vinny. In 1991, she went all in and opened a store in East 6th Street (which still remains to this day). Word soon spread of her Hip Hugger Bootleg Jean and soon fashion editors (Camilla Nickerson) and rocker chicks (Kim Gordon) were showing up in spades. During the ‘90s heyday, she would stage epic fashion shows in old banks, empty pools, all with a rock and roll crowd in attendance. After 25 years in the business, Daryl Kerrigan has had her series of ups and downs (investments gone awry, losing and then regaining the rights to her own name), but her pure aesthetic has never wavered. 

With caught up Kerrigan this week timed to her new capsule collection for Madewell, which features some of her greatest hits (read: the Flared Jean is a must). The designer kept it all in the family by enlisting Gordon and her 18-year-old daughter, Coco, to star in the campaign photos. 

“Collaborating with Madewell feels great,” Kerrigan told Yahoo Style. “People are loving the collection— I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing how great women look in the clothes, and hearing about how well they’re responding to it.” 

Yahoo Style: First thing first, is there an updated version of the hip hugger in this collection?

Daryl Kerrigan: This is a tightly edited collection — the featured pant is the high-waisted Fontaine Flare — but there is an updated version of the hip-hugger on darylk.com, as I am— and always will be — a hip-hugger lover!

Kim Gordon with her daughter, Coco, in the new Madewell campaign. Photo: Courtesy 

Kim Gordon was one of your earliest fans and now she’s featured in your campaign with her daughter, Coco, how does it feel to have that friendship come full circle?

It feels very natural, very real. When you stick to your guns, the bonds you form with others who also stay true to themselves remain strong. It’s all about integrity.

Was Coco as receptive to the clothes as her mom? Did she have any comments about the design or feel?

Coco absolutely loved the collection–it was right up her alley. All of the pieces were worn by both mother and daughter.

Do you have the same approach to design now as when you first started? How is it similar or different?

My approach to design always come down to:  Does it look good? Does it feel good? Does it reflect how I feel? Do I like myself in these clothes? The answer has to always be Yes. I continually adjust the styling and the proportions, and the sizing has become more forgiving, but the attitude, attention to quality, fit, and detail remains the same.

The Daryl K x Madewell suede fringe jacket, $498, madewell.com

You had some pretty epic runway shows back in the day. Do you miss them? What is your favorite fashion memory or anecdote from this era?

I loved every one of those shows! My favorite is probably the one that Joey Ramone attended in 1997: The models strutted out onto the flatbed of an 18-wheeler Mack truck, which served as the runway, and the concert lights followed the models like they were rock stars. We played The Ramones from start to finish; the final song was Lemmy’s Ace of Spades, and the audience went out pumping their fists to Motorhead. Joey loved it–it was such a blast!

Great to see that you haven’t lost your rock and roll vibe. How important is music when you’re designing? What do you listen to? Anything new we should be made aware of?

My taste in music very broad, and ranges from obscure psychedelic folk and rock, to the hits of the 60’s through the 80’s. For me, the 90’s was mostly about hip hop and rap. And Bowie, always.

When I’m working, I listen to the radio. WFMU has been by go-to station since I discovered it in 1990. The deejays are really accessible and incredibly well-versed in their genres. And there are no ads! Just cool people, in a strong community, playing all kinds of music (and not much jazz, which I like because it’s pretty much the only genre I’m not that in to). I just created a a cool, uptempo Spotify playlist for the Madewell collaboration. 

Fontaine Flare Jeans, $148, madewell.com 

What do you think about how the ‘90s aesthetic has resurfaced in the current fashion cycle?

90’s fashion was a theory of dressing that was influenced by art, music, dance and athletics; it was fueled by the street style cultures that developed from hip hop, punk, goth, and skater style (ie, sneakers, track pants, hoodies, graphic Ts, jeans were, and still are, mainstays.). It was also about glamour—super high heels, lots of makeup, styled hair, colorful nails. Take all of that, mix it up, take it to the streets, and it becomes a style. 90’s style emerged from fashion, and then transcended fashion in the same way that other lasting styles have.

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Justin Bieber greets Courtney Love at the Saint Laurent Los Angeles show last night as Krist Novoselic and (Courtney hater) Kim Gordon look on. (Chris Cornell reportedly also was in attendance.