At first glance of the audience at the Spring 2016, Public School show you could very well be looking at one of veteran NYC houses; Kors, DVF, Vera Wang. After further absorption, it becomes clear you are looking at brand new frontier; one where high meets low, hard meets soft and the rule makers and rule breakers co-exist. Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne will long be considered one of the early settlers of this frontier.
Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, the duo that makes up Public School have always been billboards for the Public School aesthetic. In 2008, the New York natives launched the brand with an intense focus on razor-sharp precision and identifiable NYC street culture. The brand quickly gained traction with a rich variety of male tastemakers, from top fashion editors to young ‘hypebeasts’. Eventually, the CFDA took notice, awarding the Public School cool kids the Swarovski Menswear award. When their first Womenswear looks launched in 2014; they were met with a significant challenge. Would they follow in the footsteps of brands such as the now defunct Band of Outsiders and design for their male customer’s girlfriend? Would they design for a brand new girl, one with the same fashion ideals as that male customer? Thankfully, chose the latter. Since then they have created a power brand representative of the new contemporary.
There is a new idea of modernity brewing in the industry and Dao-Yi and Maxwell have been a significant part of that shift. Along with Shaun Oliver’s HBA, Virgil Abloh’s Off-White, Gosha Rubchinskiy and the Vetements collective, Public School is making a case for the merging of streetwear with high fashion rather than the acceptance of streetwear by high fashion. The proverbial tide is turning.
The Public School Spring 16 collection was nothing if not a campaign to become the arbiter of what that new contemporary represents for New York. The 2015 appointment to DKNY sent a very strong message to the New York fashion community about the liquidity and diversity of design talent today. Designers who are able to not only produce high-quality work but be visible spokespeople for their work, are able to take on a diverse portfolio of creative projects at once and can grab the attention of a range of customers. The appointment of designers who only premiered their very first womenswear look just a short two years ago to one of the most visible New York-based brands in the world is something that would have never happened 10 years ago. The new contemporary is about youth, immediacy and multiple creative disciplines.
As designers, Public School has made an excellent habit of playing on the undervalued sensibilities of modern women. While status and sexuality are ever present sensibilities in fashion they are oversaturated. What Public School and the other brands that are thriving in this arena are pushing is an appreciation for Malleability and Androgyny. The Spring 16 show was a continuation of that Public School doctrine. Multi-purposing of high quality, feather light fabrics. Moldable silhouettes that depend on personal styling to define a final look. The ability to repurpose somewhat inconvenient ideas to real-life wearability; such as cement sweeping crisp white separates. The looks are not overly styled to distract the viewer from personal interpretation - that’s where the Public School designers reign supreme.
There is an easiness to the Public School approach to glamour that speaks to the new guard of customer and influencer alike.
What you witness when you watch young designers, working with a young brand, masterminding relatively young concepts is a voice based on immediacy. They are designing a collection very much rooted in what women want to look like right now. Dao-Yi and Maxwell have made a craft of appealing to the full range; high and low, street and cerebral, masculine and feminine.
Public School is a full palette of contradictions in the best way possible.
Turning the high fashion paradigm on its head.