As the New York brand launches an exclusive capsule collection on MR PORTER, we tap its trendsetting designers for some valuable lessons.
If you were looking for a quick precis of what’s exciting about New York style right now, you could do worse than typing the names of Public School designers Messrs Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne into Google and flicking through the resulting images. Here’s Mr Chow at a GQ party, wearing a bomber, loose shorts over trousers and a beanie hat balanced high on his head (all in black). There’s Mr Osborne at the Met Ball, wearing an ankle-length wraparound coat with contrast sole Derbies (also all in black) – coming on as something of an antidote to all the guys scuttling around in their tuxedos.
In short, the two friends and colleagues, who launched Public School in 2008 after working together at P. Diddy’s fashion label Sean John, are not only the perfect ambassadors for their own work, but also the city they live in. Their look – sleek, minimal, sporty but refined – is a distillation of the New York lifestyle, in which everyone is always on the go, but looks great doing it.
Testimony to this fact is the latest bit of news concerning these two: they’ve just been named as the new creative directors of one of the most New York-y of all New York brands, DKNY. But even before this recent accolade, they’ve been scooping up the plaudits. In 2013 they won both theCFDA Swarovski Award for Menswear and the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund. In 2015 they won the International Woolmark prize and they’re nominated for another CFDA award. You get the feeling that if there were a CFDA award for winning CFDA awards, they’d probably win that too.
Given such incredible recent successes, we at MR PORTER are naturally thrilled to be launching an exclusive Public School capsule collection this month, comprising, as Mr Osborne puts it, “essentials… what you need day to day in your wardrobe”. The collection, an essay in grey and black (which, Mr Osborne assures us, he “had some fun doing”) features the kind of pieces that have made Public School a name to watch on the international menswear scene, from elongated tees to double layered shirts and – a bit of a signature – superlatively smart sweatpants and shorts in over-dyed terry cotton. Taking advantage of this opportunity to consult a pair of designers on the cusp of even greater style stardom, we thought it a good time to learn something from them. So here it is: a complete lesson plan for grabbing your own slice of Messrs Chow and Osborne’s characteristic attitude. Your schooling starts now.
One of the most frequently recurring themes in Public School’s collections, as well as the designers’ off-duty outfits, is the colour black. Seriously, these guys live in monochrome. For the MR PORTER capsule, they’ve gone a little wayward, focusing on shades of grey, but black is still used as a backdrop, creeping in as a fade into the ombre jacquard sweatshirt and also used in a denim and lamb leather jacket. What’s so great about black? “Black for us is just… it’s such a powerful colour,” says Mr Chow. “At the same time it’s an anonymous colour. We like the idea of allowing ourselves to disappear in clothes, or to make a strong statement. And either way… black sort of says, ‘listen, you do your thing, I’ll do my thing.’ That’s the allure of black to us.”
Key to the Public School look is a combination of opposites – a rule that applies just as much in the brand’s mixing of sports idioms with high-end fabrics as it does with its experiments in size and shape. Mr Osborne’s Met Ball outfit with its long coat and cropped trousers is a case in point, as is Mr Chow’s fondness for wearing baggy shorts over slim trousers or leggings. As Mr Osborne puts it: “We play with proportion; we play with highs and lows.” The capsule offers plenty of opportunity for such combinations, featuring a layered shirt with contrasting sleeve lengths and the brand’s signature tees that extend downwards to mid-thigh (peeking neatly from underneath your jacket).
Public School is often associated with the word “street”. But Mr Chow is keen to point out that his brand is not necessarily “streetwear” – he and Mr Osborne are going for a more subtle effect. “When we say we fuse fashion and street, that’s more the idea that the word ‘street’ is interchangeable with the action of people,” says Mr Chow. “People who are walking where they need to go. For us it really is about being comfortable – something that promotes this idea of movement, something that’s versatile.” He holds up the grey trousers from the capsule as a prime example of this. “Something that’s non-traditional in the sense of they’re not denim, they’re not straight-leg trousers, but there’s some shape to them, some performance to them. But they’re a little bit roomier, in the waist.”
Mr Chow and Osborne, who grew up in Queens and Brooklyn respectively are New Yorkers through and through.
So – here’s a question: what can they tell us about New York that we don’t already know? “It’s got a greenbelt?” says Mr Chow. “That trains are the fastest way to get around?” says Mr Osborne. There’s a pause. Then Mr Osborne speaks again. “It’s the last lawless city in the world,” he says. “If you’ve got the dream and vision and the hustle to make it happen,” he continues, “then you can make it happen here in New York.
There’s a lot of freedom here in this city – I hope that people know about that!” On that note – school’s out. Time for recess.
Editor Rogue Homme