Dauphinette designer Olivia Cheng’s Fall 2023 runway show Thursday featured mohair blankets and hardware from the Bonnie Cashin Archive. The seemingly unlikely collaboration between the 24-year-old Gen Z designer, best known for experimental fashion made out of upcycled materials like resin-preserved flower chainmail and and found objects quilted in recycled PVC, and the estate of one of the pioneers of American sportswear came about via Instagram.

Just before Covid lockdowns three years ago, Cheng posted an homage to Cashin’s Fall 1964 Dog Leash skirt, a fuzzy ankle-grazing blanket skirt that can be hitched up with clips to make it easier to move around. Dr. Stephanie Lake, a decorative arts historian, jewelry designer, and owner of the Cashin archive, got in touch to express her delight that someone so young was interested in Cashin’s work and so began an Internet friendship.

When she began thinking her Fall 2023 collection, Cheng decided to make it an exigesis on American sportswear. “I knew that I wanted to do something explaining what sportswear meant in the second half of the 20th century and so I really wanted to draw on Bonnie for that,” she says. “If I said to somebody in random conversation, ‘I’m wearing sportswear,’ I feel like they would think of like, athleisure, maybe. Whereas it originally meant wearing something nice that wasn’t restrictive.”

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To immerse herself in all things Cashin, Cheng traveled to Minneapolis where the archive is stored on a temperature-controlled floor of Lake’s home. “Stephanie’s family was so Midwestern with their hospitality,” Cheng recalls. “They came and picked me up in their family car and every single night I would eat dinner with them.”

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Dauphinette Dog Leash skirt with Parabola top, featuring Bonnie Cashin mohair blanket

Cheng spent her days reading Cashin’s old journals from the 1960s and even found a manifesto on what fashion would be like in the 2020s. She learned about Cashin’s many pioneering contributions to the American fashion industry which in addition to serving as the first Coach creative director included, convertible garments and coining the term ‘separates.’ Like Cheng, Cashin favored unsual-for-the-time mixed materials including leather, mohair, and hardware.

Lake loaned Cheng the original Dog Leash skirt and provided reference imagery of the Spring 1968 Parabola skirt, another key Cashin design which features a parabola-curved hemline. She also gave Cheng two mohair blankets. Cheng spliced one of them together with TomTex faux leather made from shrimp and mushroom food waste, adding a sprinkling of upcycled Swarovski crystals to make her own ’gram-ready rendition of the Parabola skirt. She used the other with vintage plastic belt buckles, leather scraps, beetle wings, and ceramic cabinet knobs to fashion a Dog Leash skirt with a parabolic cut-out top.

As a cheeky nod to the “sport” interpretation of sportswear, Cheng accessorized several of the looks with football bags developed in collaboration with Andrea Bergart that were made from actual upcycled footballs and shearling scrap handles.

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Dauphinette Parabola skirt featuring Bonnie Cashin mohair blanket and Andrea Bergart x Dapuphinette football bag

“I feel like Bonnie’s combination of mixing and matching allowed for more personalization where your clothes could be a reflection of you,” Cheng reflects.

See All the Looks from the Dauphinette Fall 2023 Collection
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