public school’s spring/summer 17 rebellion

The brand’s first show since announcing its schedule switch from the traditional fashion week calendar featured a mixed-gender "mini militia."

by Emily Manning
09 June 2016, 2:21am

Yesterday, Public School presented its spring/summer 17 collection — the brand's first show since announcing its plan to combine women's and menswear into two shows staged in January and June. This new gender-mixed, biannual model eschews the traditional fashion week system for dates that align with the pre-collection calendar, effectively giving the collections more time on the sales floor. And while Public School's shift followed Burberry, Vetements, Gucci, and Tom Ford's similar schedule changes, its creative directors Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow are among the first New York designers to buck the traditional model. This industry upheaval seemed to tie into the theme of yesterday's collection: rebellion.

"The concept of the show really was a reflection of the political landscape that's happening not only in the States, but all around the world — this idea of false leaders and false icons that are being built up," Chow explained backstage. Yesterday's offering saw a combination of military and athletic references — slashed silhouettes, strappy jumpsuits, sleeveless layering pieces, and punk patches slapped across the lot. The repeated use of shocking yellow, according to Osborne, was a "call to action."

The anti-authoritarian theme wasn't a direct response to the show schedule switch-up, but Chow and Osborne did see it as their own form of "resistance to the fashion calendar." The change allowed the designers to "spend way more time on the concept of the show and our collection, because it wasn't as crazy. The scheduling allowed us to sort of get all of our ideas in order," Chow explained.

Much like Public School seasons past, the show included a performance component that spotlit the power of collective action. The Chelsea venue became an active construction site, where masked workers in bright white jumpsuits and yellow gloves stood on scaffolding, constructing an ambiguous concrete monument. After the last model stepped off the runway, a worker-turned-graffiti-artist broke rank and spraypainted "WE NEED LEADERS" on the wall. According to Chow, this monument was part of the collection's metaphor: "it's resisting the idea that we're just blindly building up anybody to become a leader or an icon."

Though both Osborne and Chow spoke about the season in a global sense, there's something very New York about a pristine white wall being tagged with bold black paint. And while the designers were quick to caution that the collection isn't a response to a specific person, there's something very Donald Trump about the baseless construction of an enormous wall in the first place. "If we continue to blindly follow people that don't really know what they're doing, that don't deserve to be leaders, that won't eventually have a monument built for them, then we will be in trouble," said Chow. "It will be 1984 in 2017."


Text Emily Manning

Public School
spring/summer 17