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Visiting New York for fashion week a few years ago, Public School were one of the brands I came across, and enthused about to a then largely disinterested audience in the UK, still hyped up on the success of London C0llections: Men at drawing the fashion world’s attention to menswear and the emergence of homegrown talent in particular. I continued to cover the brand’s presentations for The Guardian, which usually took place at Milk Studios where other New York menswear hopefuls such as Rochambeau, staged concurrent presentations on the Sunday night of fashion week, providing focus in a city where menswear is illiberally sprinkled across the week’s schedule. From the first, designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow stuck to a clear formula; a refined version of New York’s no-fuss streetwear, in the form of MA1s, biker jackets and mesh layers in strong monochromes. Gradually, the presentations got busier as the buzz around the brand built.
Fast forward a year and the brand won the CFDA award for menswear, graduating to a fully-fledged runway show along the way. Their Spring/Summer show last September was a packed house, attended by the likes of Anna Wintour and streamed online to the uninvited. It featured a live performance by Twin Shadow, personifying the brand in iconic white-on-white stage gear. In another breakthrough, Public School is one of the very few New York designers being stocked by both Mr Porter and Matches here in the UK. Despite a name that doesn’t translate well in the topsy-turvy terms of the British education system (they’re hardly old Etonians), it seems the brand is finding success here as well. Which brings us to the peak of the story, with Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow recently being appointed as creative directors of DKNY. As Donna Karan’s youth focused line, initially inspired by her daughter Gaby, the iconic brand had already taken steps to revitalise itself through a collaboration with Opening Ceremony, including an ad campaign featuring the likes of Kim Ann Foxman and Cara Delevigne, representing today’s equivalent of the brand’s ’90’s heyday. From the outset, Osborne and Chow have been celebrated as local boys, their streetwear inspiration drawn from the very streets they grew up on, their denim proudly produced in-State. A perfect match you might say, with Manhattan stretched before them as a giant billboard in waiting. But New York today is not the city it was, like London, its gentrification is the subject of passionate debate as cash-strapped creatives feel pushed out to make room for commodified versions of its grittier past. In this climate, it will be interesting to see how successfully the designers can apply their tough, minimal edge to the over-familiar, over-branded DKNY and how compelling the NY in DKNY proves to be.
Previous coverage of Public School:
And from The Guardian: