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Public School NYC redefine Luxury

Designers and Founders of Public School NYC, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne weigh in on modern style.

By Jonathan Evans, mens’ writer extraordinaire.

Public school designers

Public school designers, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne. 

Last week, designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne debuted the Public School pre-fall 2016 collection in Dubai. It seems like a strange move for a duo with such deep roots in New York, but the guys didn’t go it alone. They were there with automotive icon Cadillac, which unveiled its brand-new XT5 crossover the same night.

At its heart, the event was dedicated to changing how we think about American luxury in a global marketplace. And when considered in that light, the elements at play—a celebration of two U.S. brands challenging the conventions of their respective fields held in a booming international city built on wealth and expansion—start to come into focus.

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And speaking of focus: the clothes! The collection was inspired by the intersection of nature and technology, and the result was at once wide-ranging and remarkably consistent. Silhouettes ran the gamut from kimono-like jackets and wide trousers to tunic shirts and bombers, but that interplay between the organic and the inorganic persisted throughout. Shibori-like indigo patterns found their way onto technical fabrics. Performance-inspired jersey melded with traditional suiting wool. And it all looked really good.

Public school collection inspected by Nick Wooster

Public school collection inspected by Nick Wooster

After the models walked the runway and the house lights came up, we sat down with Chow and Osborne to talk about how the collection came together, what luxury means, and how men should dress now.

Did you look to any specific source for this collection’s inspiration? 

Dao-Yi Chow: For us, it was really reinforcing the idea of sport meeting this relaxed silhouette that we do. We had a lot of images of kimonos—it was really Japanese actually.

That main print had a very discharge-printed, boro cloth kind of feel. 

DYC: Yeah, like shibori.

Maxwell Osborne: And there’s that idea of nature and technology crossing. So indigo dye and a natural printing technique like block printing, using that against an easier silhouette. And pairing that with a technical fabric like the tailored wool mixed with the jersey—bringing that piece into it.

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You guys are one of the standard-bearers of this intersection of sport, technical, and high fashion. Do you think that’s just a trend? Or is it actually a sea change in the way clothing is being interpreted? 

DYC: I hope it’s a change. For us, the idea of having to get into different looks throughout the day is really old. So our vision of a guy’s wardrobe and girl’s wardrobe is: things that are easy and versatile—things that get you throughout the day.

MO: It’s a change. Or it’s going to be a change. The idea of what luxury is… An Uber, for instance, is a new luxury. You can have your own personal black car at any time, at the push of a button on your phone. That’s the idea of new luxury. That’s the change. And the idea of practicality is something that’s going to be big. You can see it in the clothes: Things are becoming easier and make more sense. And the idea, even, of making sneakers relevant to wear to an evening event is a full-on change. I think people just want to be comfortable.

And that idea—that reinterpretation of what exactly luxury means, making it more modern—is central to the way you guys approach the line. 

DYC: It’s about convenience. That’s really what luxury is: making your life easier. That’s why technology is now luxury. It’s things that help problem-solve and serve all these different purposes. So there’s a versatility to it, there’s a convenience, there’s an ease. Those are all traits that we embody in our collection.

In the last few seasons, it feels like your popularity has exploded. Does that make you nervous? How do you manage the growth?

DYC: I don’t think anything cool just bursts onto the scene. It’s got to be a slow build, and you can’t burn out too quickly. So we think a lot a lot about our base, and how to deal with it, and keep it small. Because I think that’s what people like about the brand.

MO: We’re still really small. Maybe from the outside it seems bigger, but we’re still a small company. We still feel we’re emerging designers. A lot of things have happened in a short time, but we still feel like a new, up-and-coming brand.

How do aesthetics play into it? Do you have to evolve or do you strive for consistency? 

DYC: It’s constant. It has to be. If your point of view wavers with whatever’s going on, that’s shortsighted. For us, from day one, we’ve had the same point of view. So we’ve been able to develop as designers—develop new techniques, and refine the things that we do. But the base of it, our point of view, is consistent.


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