It’s not every day that downtown cool kids become Anna Wintour favorites, but that’s just what happened to Public School founders Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne. The duo are, in fact, winners of both the CFDA Swarovski Award for emerging talent in menswear and the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. While it may seem like Public School burst onto the scene out of nowhere, the brand has actually been around since 2008. Chow and Osborne met while Chow was working as the creative director at Sean John; Osborne was on the design team. They struck up a friendship and ended up putting together their first collection in just three months. However, it wasn’t until they were accepted into the inaugural CFDA Incubator Program in 2010, as the only menswear label, that things began to take off. They are now stocked at a wide range of prominent retailers including Barneys and Bloomingdale’s.
Public School’s Aesthetic
There is no irony behind the brand’s name; Chow and Osborne both attended public schools in New York and are very proud of their background. Public School is best known for its street-inspired clothing with sportswear-influenced tailoring. Silhouettes tend to be loose and colors are kept to a minimum for both the men’s and women’s collections.
In Their Own Words
- Osborne on what he learned while working at Sean John: “I learned a lot about the sales, the marketing, the understanding of who buys the product, and the whole business side of things that you never really think about when you’re young. You can’t just make good clothes and get them out there. You need to make sure it gets produced, it sells, and you’re hitting numbers.”
- According to Osborne, the duo oversees everything, telling Interview, “My partner and I are both from New York, born and raised, and wanted to really own that, give back to New York, and produce everything here in New York. We wanted to make sure our quality control was spot-on, that we were able to handle everything in all aspects, and that we could do it at the drop of a dime. So being hands-on and watching everything progress is something that we thought had to be done. We wanted to really own it.”
- When describing how they want their clothes to make their customer feel, Osborne has said, “We wanted to be able to change people’s attitudes, like when you put a jacket on, it would be sort of augmentative. You’d feel a little tougher than you normally are, or might be more confident. I think that’s what fashion is for us. It’s supposed to bring out the best in you.”
- Music hugely influences their design process (prior to getting into fashion, Chow worked at Blaze and Vice where he focused on music). “Music really captures a feeling, and energy, and an attitude. It makes you want to dance or it makes you sad or happy or confident. We always want to translate that into our collection,” Chow explained.
- When asked to describe how they work together Osborne explained: “We hate working together, actually! [Laughs] We do everything together. If someone is stronger at something, we let them do that, but it’s a partnership. If I really love something but he doesn’t as much, we’ll do it, and if he really loves something but I don’t as much, we’ll do it. We don’t fight too much.”
- The duo launched a diffusion line, Black Apple New York, at Urban Outfitters. The designers initially considered Black Apple as a possible name for Public School before deciding to save the name for a higher-end line, which then ended up being their diffusion line.
- The brand launched a Public School denim line last fall.
- Their first formal runway presentation took place last February at Milk Studios. Among those in attendance were Anna Wintour, Bee Shaffer, Jenna Lyons, Andrew Rosen, Julie Gilhart, Alexander Wang president Rodrigo Bazan, Prabal Gurung, New York Giants’ Victor Cruz, Joe Jonas and Kelly Rowland.
- Their first runway presentation also included, for the first time, womenswear (a wide range of ready-to-wear, outerwear and accessories).
- J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons thinks, “They’re pretty remarkable on every front.”
- They designed a capsule collection for The Knicks.