Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Doncaster: Keeping Tradition Alive


Doncaster (www.doncaster.com), whose parent company is Tanner Companies, was originally founded in 1931 as the Doncaster Collar and Shirt Company in Rutherfordton, North Carolina by S.B. (Bobo) Tanner, Jr. and his wife Millie. They named it after Doncaster, England, a town they visited (and fell in love with) while on their honeymoon.

In 1935, their ‘basic’ product took a glamorous and fashionable turn when the shirtwaist, for which they became known, started to be sold through the Junior League of Charlotte, N.C. This very same tradition of “personal service” achieved through in-home shopping continues today: the Doncaster Collection is only available through ‘Wardrobe Consultants’, and is not sold in stores or online (well, not yet).


While the company is decades old, they have just recently begun to spread the word and capitalize on their storied past. Lippe Taylor, www.lippetaylor.com (their public relations firm) organized a viewing for their holiday 2006 collection last week and it’s only their second showroom event (their first, for fall/winter, was held several months ago).


What caught my eye upon entering the reception area of Doncaster’s lower 5th Avenue showroom (aside from the handsome beaux arts building that serves as the company’s New York headquarters and its decidedly ‘off’ 7th Avenue locale), were the vintage black and white photos lining the wall, featuring pretty, fresh faced, wholesome young women wearing the company’s signature items. The one that really stood out was a completely unrecognizable, pre-Hollywood Jane Fonda clad in a shirtwaist dress; the item that started it all back in 1935. It perfectly sums up the philosophy and captures the mood of the 75 year old family owned and operated sportswear company.


The line, which for the last 7 years is designed by Cathy Schepis (though not a member of the family by blood, she is treated as though she is) retails from about $110 to $2200 (the most expensive item is a handsome honey colored shearling coat). Doncaster knows their customer (and she IS loyal), is not trying to be all things to all people, and considers themselves to be “ahead of the curve but easy to wear”. But that doesn’t mean there are no novel, ‘newsy’ items mixed in with the more traditional suits, sweaters, knitwear ensembles.


Notable examples are the aforementioned shearling coat; the boxy rust suede cardigan jacket trimmed with gold nail heads ($450) which was shown with glen plaid cropped wool cuffed pants; an ivory chain stitched wool sweater with taupe corduroy pants; a textural black rayon/nylon/spandex cardigan trimmed with silver pailletes $420, shown over a lurex striped t ($250); a bow trimmed wool/lurex black and white tweed jacket ($595); a gold brocade pantsuit (the jacket is $495 and the pants are $420); a red leather jacket ($695) shown with black leather ‘miracle’ pants ($695); the pants are so named because they are guaranteed to fit like a dream while miraculously slimming and sculpting the torso; and the leopard printed silk shell ($170) and matching long scarf (sold separately).

For more information, contact Charly Rok or Jamie Rudolph, Lippe Taylor, 212 598 4400, X 155, 162.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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