Lighting up with a blackout, Public School are the crowned princes of New York menswear. Still dazed from the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Awards, the dynamic duo of darkness talk winning, Wintour and womenswear.
New York fashion endures the tyranny of black, the default colour of cool, chic and ease. Colourful collection pieces are left gathering dust in storerooms whilst imperious black rules the shop floor. So it’s little wonder that in a city that enjoys an eternal love affair with the colour, Public School (Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow) would scoop the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award for their extremely black menswear collection. But they’re more than just that – there’s plenty of white too (to play off the black) and they do minimal sports-luxe that is progressive, with a commercial edge. Now they’re $300,000 better off, they’re going to expand into womenswear too. We caught up with the brotherly pair, who seemed dazed from the whirlwind of press, applause and attention that followed their win.
Firstly, well done on the award. How was the night?
Dao-Yi: There was a dinner, then they announced the award at the very end of the night. They had a special chicken pot pie, which they serve every year.
Maxwell: It’s what Anna wants.
I never imagined she’d be a pie woman! Were you expecting to win? You were up against ten others.
Maxwell: You don’t really expect it, but we went into it wanting to win. Afterwards we had a little spot in Soho House and friends came down. Then we ended up meeting up with some of the other designer finalists.
All the finalists went to LA for a trip. How was that?
Maxwell: Everybody bonded. We got to hang out, have drinks, bowling. It’s a welcome to LA event, and then the next day was a fashion show and dinner.
Any stories from the trip?
Dao-Yi: We had a crazy In-N-Out burger night, where we bumped into Aziz Ansari. We know him from New York – we have a mutual friends. At 1.30 in the morning we saw him and he was like, “Hey, what’s up guys?”
I saw the photo of you and Andre Leon Talley, Maxwell. And you shouted him out in your speech. Is he an idol of yours?
Maxwell: I love that picture. I shouted him out in my speech, but it wasn’t planned. He was one of the first major editors to see our collection before we showed it for fashion week, and he gave us some really good pointers, so that was cool.
And how’s Anna Wintour? She has such a bad rep, but she’s incredibly supportive of new talent.
Maxwell: She’s a sweetheart.
Dao-Yi: She’s unbelievable. People rarely get to know her well. In the time that we were able to spend with her, she was really supportive.
You went round to her house – what was that like?
Dao-Yi: It felt more town and country than I had imagined. It felt really homely and less curated than I thought. It was more colourful too – yellows and oranges.
If you could have stolen anything, what would it have been?
Maxwell: I don’t think we would have stolen anything, but I think we would have camped out
You obviously use tons of black. Why do New Yorkers love black so much?
Dao-Yi: It captures the attitude of New York. It’s really strong; it’s anonymous. People in New York are about their business and don’t want to be bothered, so there’s something about hiding behind black. A big part of our line is also that play between black and white. It makes it feel graphic.
You said you’re going to work on a womenswear line and you’re already doing a women’s collection for J Crew. How has that been?
Maxwell: It’s fun talking about a women’s body: “Drop the armhole a bit more – we need more sideboob!” No, it’s fun, it’s exciting to dress a woman. It’s a nice little challenge.
What do you think typifies New York style right now?
Dao-Yi: It’s about the way it’s put together. It feels stripped down. We have the four seasons here and go through really wild climate change, so it’s really functional.
It’s more sporty than Europe too.
Dao-Yi: I think that now there’s this high-low thing, that includes a street element. I think that’s what we try to do.
Your footwear coming out looks Jordan-inspired.
Maxwell: Not on purpose. The shoe was based on a shape from a sweater we did. We took that shape and thought, “Shit, this looks like a Jordan.” But it was all subconsciously.
Your single dreadlock is quite an iconic look Maxwell. When did you start that?
Maxwell: It’s been here for some time – probably seven years. It was all a mistake. I had a bunch of these growing out and a girl I worked with cut them and she left one on the front of my head as a joke. It kind of just stayed there. It’ll fall out at some point I’m sure.
What’s your signature Dao-Yi? The killer cheekbones?
Dao-Yi: I’ll take that! My charismatic smile?
Maxwell: Your lips.
What are your favourite New York stores?
Maxwell: The Apple store or the Nike store on Mercer.
Dao-Yi: I’m excited for the Dover Street Market store.