There’s an undeniable development bubbling under the landscape of American menswear: a group of high-end designers who have shelved the trite dimensions of prep in favor of avant-garde street style. It’s a fresh approach that is notably evident in collections such as Rick Owens, En Noir and Phillip Lim. But no designers have come close to actualizing this concept as deftly as Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of Public School.
Just a few months following their CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund win, the New York City natives presented their first formal runway show Feb. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. It was touted as one of the season’s most anticipated collections, which attracted industry all-stars like Anna Wintour of Vogue, Eugene Tong of Details and Nick Sullivan of Esquire; the latter attendee describing the presentation as “THE.BEST.COLLECTION.EVER” via Instagram.
Though regarded by editors and bloggers as “the next big thing,” Chow and Osborne have acquired more than a decade of valuable experience. Having met while working on the design team for Sean John, the duo has also consulted for various fashion brands and even operate a second fashion line, Black Apple — a moderately priced street label that is available at stores like Urban Outfitters and Karmaloop.com. But out of all of their projects, Public School has proven to be the most exciting and fruitful endeavor for the men.
Adhering to the staple elements of high-low fashion, the 2014 autumn/winter line successfully demonstrated Public School’s true essence: forward-looking streetwear. The designers’ signature color palette of black, navy and grey dominated the highly structural collection, providing a refreshing level of sophistication that is often void in streetwear brands. Memorable pieces included a tweed biker jacket with leather sleeves, a navy front-panel cape and a herringbone three-piece suit — all of which were punctuated with street-inspired accessories like white-soled creepers, fingerless gloves and structured wide-brim hats.
Following the runway show, Osborne told Style.com that the concept behind Public School’s collection was “the wanderer of the new frontier,” which is fitting for a couple of Brooklynites whose business has skyrocketed during the past 12 months. And deservingly so. Unlike other brands of similar genres, Public School’s inherent urban sensibility takes cues from luxury favorites, and not the other way around. It’s a factor that lends an endearing degree of honesty to Chow’s and Osborne’s unparalleled visual language.
At its core, Public School is a fusion of contrasting concepts and ideas — culling elements from disparate styles without looking unwearable. It’s athletic without being pedestrian. It’s dark without being goth. It’s impeccably tailored without abandoning components of swagger. But above all, it’s cool without being contrived.