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Fashion / Style File

Daniel Wingate’s $20 Billion Bet to Change the Fashion World — and How Spanx Fit In

This Rebel Dares to Design Clothes for Regular Size Women

BY // 06.01.18

Daniel Wingate is out to shake up the fashion world.

The 48-year-old Florida-born designer, who served as creative director of Escada for five years before leaving the luxe German label last year, has launched a namesake collection designed for women of “all shapes and all sizes.” He shows two collections a year, not four as most designers do, and believes in modern, architectural styles that won’t go out of date in a season or two. “Ageless, timeless, fearless” is his motto.

“I don’t think people should be costumed. The Met Gala was atrocious. I don’t know what’s modern about wearing a ball gown you can’t sit in,” he says, while in Houston for a personal appearance at Elizabeth Anthony. “It’s not that I don’t understand the Cinderella concept for most women, I do, but I just don’t get the thrill of it.”

The Wingate collection features high-quality Italian silk, cashmere, cotton, and hammered satin fabrics and knitwear — he calls a silk stretch fabric he developed “couture Spanx” because it has a beautiful texture that molds to the body — in deceptively simple shapes and monocromatic colors, largely all-black or all-white. Most of his designs have elastic waists and no zipper or buttons. And just about everything has pockets.

His samples are a size 8 to10 (most designers create runway collections for size 0 models) because he believes it allows for a more correct proportion when he sizes the designs other sizes. His collection ranges from the equivalent of a size 4 to size 18, and he can manufacture even larger or small sizes based on his customers’ wants and needs.

Fit and comfort are extremely important, Wingate says. He inserts a slit on the side seam of a soft double silk blazer so it doesn’t bunch up when a woman puts her hands in her pockets and sews an inverted pleat on the seam of a cowl neck dress to create a more flattering silhouette. A black wrap dress is fitted in the front and wraps in the back (unlike most wrap dresses that wrap in the front) for a more streamlined look.

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“It speaks for life today, that kind of easiness and softness,” he says. “If a woman does have a little bit more curves, softer fabrics are just more becoming. It’s this ageless attitude in designing and creating clothes that make a younger woman look more sophisticated and a mature woman feel young.

“Those are subtle details, but  I don’t think that’s the ideal of most designers. Their vision is that princess, that supermodel, and afterwards whatever. And reality is not that. Sixty to 70 percent of women in America are size 14. It’s a 20 billion dollar industry. And It’s a part of the industry that has been growing 70 percent every year.”

An Unfussy Homage

With his philosophy of effortless, unfussy dressing using luxe fabrics, Wingate pays homage to the legendary designer Goeffrey Beene, whom he worked for while a student at the Parsons School of Design in New York, and Zoran, the Yugoslavian-born America designer whose minimalist logo-free styles in neutral colors were acclaimed as revolutionary in the 1980s and 1990s.

Wingate notes that Zoran created “a beautiful simplified modern collection, (using) just the most luxurious fabrics, the simplest of cuts, everything that is becoming to a woman. It frames her face, makes her shine, makes her jewelry shine, her bags, her shoes. They’re timeless but they’re investment pieces. She can wear them for years to come.”

Already, such celebrities as Debra Messing, Kelly Rutherford and Bernadette Peters have been photographed in his designs and Viola Davis will be outfitted in several Wingate creations for the new season of How to Get Away with Murder, which begins filming in July. The collection ranges in price from $395 for a pair of wide-legged silk trousers to $1,995 for an evening gown.

Born and raised in Tallahassee, where his father taught voice at Florida State University and his mother was an interior designer, Wingate recalls a “wonderful” childhood, where visitors to the home included acclaimed soprano Leontyne Price. He nevertheless got the bug to get out of the Sunshine State.

“I had to see the world,” he recalls.

An internship with Beene while a student at Parsons led to a full time job with the acclaimed designer. After three and a half years, Daniel Wingate followed a colleague to J Crew as an accessories designer. With wanderlust still in his heart, he then moved overseas to Munich and took a job with Strenesse, a contemporary men’s and women’s line. He joined Escada in 2002 and rose to become chief designer in 2012.

He continues to live in Munich, which he loves, and also because it’s only a short jaunt to Italy, where he sources most of the fabrics for his collection. But he travels often to the United States to meet with customers in a select group of high-end women’s boutiques to tout the new collection.

It makes a difference, I come and meet the customer and preach the word of Wingate. They hear my vision and what I’m trying to do and what I’m trying to challenge and at the same time it’s a positive message,” he says.

“It’s a different concept. Hopefully, it will find its space.”

Home, chic home.

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