We are living in the age of the yoga pant and that, as Daryl K would have it, is a sad thing. Not that she isn’t all for comfort. In the late ‘90s she roared to fame as a fashion designer with hip hugger pants that were so well cut and so easy to wear that they put her name on the map and her clothes on the backs, or more accurately asses, of everyone who was cool or aspired to be so. The New York Times’ Cathy Horyn, in a review of Daryl K’s fall 2000 collection, tidily summed up her winning way: “a renegade attitude with a knowing sense of modern sophistication.”
In the years since, Daryl’s attitude has grown ever more independent. Never one to conform to a whiplash approach to fashion—it’s up, it’s down, it’s hard, it’s soft—Daryl Kerrigan, the Dublin girl who came to New York on a lark at the age of 22, is a seasoned woman of conviction and consistency.
“Today there is too much fashion and not enough good design,” she says. We are sitting on the porch of her house in Equinunk, PA, sipping green tea and watching the rain travel down the valley toward us. “I understand the intention of yoga pants but who wants every nook and cranny to be visible? That’s not sexy.”
What are sexy are the stretch leather leggings she’s been making lately. She disappears into the house to retrieve a pair. By the time she’s back the rain has pulled a curtain around the porch, turning the panoramic view into a green scrim that’s both soft and fragrant.
Softer still are the leggings, made of lambskin bonded to a stretch cotton backing. A material originally designed for boots, its rich supple quality lends itself perfectly to pants with enough stretch for total comfort and enough substance for total chic. Daryl’s talent is first in seeing the potential of a material and then applying her design eye smartly.
“Today there is too much fashion and not enough good design.”
“Once you put these leggings on, you’ll want to wear them everyday,” she says. “Their second-skin nature moves with you and the stretch means they keep their shape so there’s no backing out of the room. And they work as a foundation for any look: under a silk dress, a sweater, a jacket, a white shirt.”
Daryl’s fashion icon may be Jim Morrison but she designs with women of all ages in mind. She’s particularly sensitive to a category of women whom fashion ignores, those who are her own middle age and older. “We’ve come here together. We’ve been through the ‘60s,’70s, ‘80s, ‘90s. The turn of the millennium. We’ve seen the best and worst of everything and know better. I want my clothes to make women’s lives better, to be functional and sexy, to represent them, and in the end to simply improve their day.”
Making life better, for Daryl, concerns far more than fashion. The more time she spends at her house in the country, tending her chickens, walking the land and studying the river from a platform her husband Paul built, the more her concerns have moved beyond her own work. “I don’t need to develop tons of things. I’ve done enough legwork; now I want to do brain work, to apply my energies to more important matters, like our gorgeous planet. What is life if you cannot drink the water and breathe the air?”
“I feel a responsibility as a designer to move the needle, to have an opinion.” Being true to herself means living a life closer to nature, outside the cycles of fashion, and advocating for design that works, not just for women’s bodies, but on every front.