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SOMA Magazine » Archive » Public School
Public School

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The dynamic between street fashion and high fashion has come to dominate the pursuits of the designing world. Designers of major brands have been working for years to cultivate lines that draw inspiration from the apex of fashion while descending into the world of street style. Public School takes a different approach: designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne have established a brand that inhabits both worlds. To label Public School as simply one or the other would discredit Chow and Osborne’s journey.

Though Public School debuted in 2007, the brand that we see today was not truly born until 2012. Chow and Osborne’s inaugural lines were rapid successes, but the designers became dissatisfied with the creative direction and production methods, and decided to temporarily shut down Public School in 2010. In the eyes of its Chow and Osborne, early Public School’s style was frantic and unfocused. With clothing that was simplistic in concept, yet overly extravagant in execution, Chow and Osborne took two years off to clarify their artistic direction and to clean up the identity of what would eventually become a widely acclaimed, fully realized brand.

Public School returned in 2012 with a new line that reflected a fully developed identity, and the designer duo has been on a hot streak ever since. Their introspection came to life with a line that was touted as the antithesis of the preppiness that often characterizes ‘street’ style. Public School’s designs ascend to the realm of high fashion while maintaining the influences of the low. Chow and Osborne work with a predominately black palette, which serves Public School’s avant-garde style while lending a sense of refinement. This is not a case of street fashion aiming to break into high fashion. This is beating them at their own game. Public School preserves an antiestablishment personality, but its alternative style is tempered with minimalism and restraint.

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Public School may be in its infancy, but Chow and Osborne are veterans of the design world. Chow made his name with several large labels before becoming the vice president of marketing at Sean John in 2001. This is where the pair first crossed paths, when Osborne eventually joined Sean John as an intern. With the contributions from the two, Sean John won the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s “Menswear Designer of the Year” Award in 2004. When Chow began to design his in-house brand for a boutique he opened, he called upon his old colleague.

The past year was one of repeated success, starting in June when Chow and Osborne won the CFDA Swarovski Award for emerging talent in menswear. Just a few months later, Public School was awarded with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, which gave the label a $300,000 prize. While this certainly earned them the label of rising stars, the true pinnacle of this year came in February with Public School’s first formal runway show at New York Fashion Week. The runway show featured an audience laden with celebrities and every major player from fashion publications. The crowd’s eagerness reached an audible buzz once the show started, and the commotion grew louder when Public School’s first-ever women’s line was revealed. Chow and Osborne had been notoriously tight lipped about any specific plans for women’s lines, only acknowledging that it was an aspiration of theirs.

The runway show was a raving success, especially with the reveal of the women’s line. Like the blend between high and street fashion, Public School’s men and women’s lines worked together to create a synthesis of carefully manicured style. There were many similar looks and common pieces between the two lines. From the bold hats and capes to the distinctively cut outerwear, Public School’s showing at New York Fashion Week was an amalgam of male and female counterparts that embodied the harmony of its dual designers. The pieces were crafted from a color palette of black, navy and gray that conjured visible enthusiasm from a crowd that has a reputation of being stylishly stoic. Continuing a year of unprecedented success, Public School, with its uniform coolness, has fully emerged.

Text by Cale Finta

THE SPRING ISSUE


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