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Paul Dillinger of Dockers: "All Khakis Are Not Created Equal"

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The other week, Dockers debuted their Spring/Summer 2011 collection, showing off smart plaids, an updated Alpha Khaki style that was introduced for Fall 2011, as well as two new members of the khaki family: the Ultimate Chino as well as the SF Khaki. With so many options, we spoke with Paul Dillinger, the senior director of global design, and had him fill us in on what style is appropriate for the right dude.

What direction are you trying to push the Dockers brand in? Who would you define as the prototypical Dockers dude?

I wouldn't say we are trying to push the brand in a new direction, but rather we are trying to serve the khaki medium in the best way possible and raise the consciousness of khaki in general. To most people khaki is one of the most homogenized products ever created, but to us we obsess over detail with regard to fit, fabric weight, color, stitching, styling, pocketing, buttons, zippers, etc. All khakis are not created equal and different wearing occasions demand different khakis—contrary to popular opinion, one khaki doesn't fit all!

Since we are the largest, global khaki brand, we don't just have one prototypical Dockers consumer. In Europe for example, Dockers is considered more casual and the consumer demands a slimmer, more fashionable silhouette. In the US, Dockers is most famous for wear-to-work pants and the most popular fit tends to be a more classic, if relaxed silhouette. The one thing all of our consumers demand is quality fit, quality fabrics and a trust that Dockers khakis will always make them look their best.

Break it down for us. What's the difference between the Alpha Khaki and the Ultimate Chino and the SF Khaki. If you had to describe the guy who would wear each of these styles, who would it be?

Alpha Khaki has been a breakthrough product for us and has actually inspired the Ultimate Chino and SF Khaki. What is so special about Alpha is the fit, fabric, and color. The fit replicates the lower rise and slimmer proportions (thigh, knee, and bottom opening) of your favorite pair of slim jeans. We then use a substantially heavier and stiffer cotton twill cloth than one would normally associate with traditional khakis to create more of a denim vibe. Both the fit and the fabric allows the Alpha Khaki to mold to your body like a pair of jeans which will eventually produce a three dimensional presence (wrinkles and wear patterns) that are typically associated with jeans. Finally, Alpha Khakis are available in a wide spectrum of color from muted neutrals to bright hues of red, blue, and orange, which offer a much broader wearing opportunity than traditional khakis—or jeans, for that matter. The Alpha male is a confident guy who appreciates a slim fit, loves color and is looking to evolve his style beyond jeans to achieve that certain cool factor.

The Ultimate Chino is a passion of mine. We wanted to create a khaki for connoisseurs. We took one of our favorite fits—the Alpha—and added a more traditional straight leg silhouette, which resulted in a pant with a ton of attitude in terms of a lower rise and clean fitting thigh that follows a straight leg pattern. This is not a slim khaki but it is not a loose khaki either, it's just very clean and modern-feeling. To finish the pant, we garment-dyed a gutsy twill cloth to create a soft, gently broken-in effect and to top it all off we added an authentic button-fly closure. The Ultimate Chino is for the chino aficionado who is looking for a modern, premium expression of khaki but also holds authenticity and heritage in high regard.

The SF Khaki is, quite simply, a dressier approach to the Alpha Khaki. Think of it as a modern, refined chino. We essentially maintained the attitude of the Alpha fit and added refined details that one would usually associate with fine dress trousers such as hook and bar closures, coin pockets and clean-finished, quarter-top side pockets offered in an assortment of fine cotton fabrics in both solids and classic striped and plaid patterns. The end result is dressier take on khakis with a razor-sharp expression. This pant demands immediate respect. The SF guy has a more refined sense of style who wants to appear more put-together but does not require the formality of a suit to make his statement.

Did any films/artists/themes inspire the spring 2012 collection? If so, what were they?

The overall theme for our spring 2012 collection was inspired by the many journeys and expeditions that were launched from right here in San Francisco. We kind of formulated this idea of a young man setting sail from the docks of San Francisco in search of adventure, training and life experience. We were inspired by some of the more rugged and gritty nautical history of San Francisco. Not the preppy, refined nautical flavor that is often associated with the East Coast, but the more rugged dock-worker/adventurer that is associated with the West Coast, particularly San Francisco. We then envisioned our protagonist setting sail and exploring the world, incorporating exotic and eclectic influences into his wardrobe. Finally, we were inspired by the notion of being marooned on a desert island and how this individual would apply the skills, knowledge and his experience he had gained to this predicament. The course of this three-stage journey inspired all of our color, pattern, silhouette, button and wash choices and resulted in a seasonal color and fabric flow that was diverse, yet connected.

· Dockers [Official Site]
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