post-apocalyptic wool-wear with public school’s new collection
We meet the new Creative Directors of DKNY to talk about the line they’ve created for their own label off the back of winning this year’s International Woolmark Prize.
Back in January at a reception buzzing with anticipation, the finalists for the inaugural International Woolmark Prize gathered in Somerset House to wait for the announcement of the winner. And the trophy-takers were…? New York's design duo, Public School, who have since gone on to become the Creative Directors of DKNY. Paul Smith, Tim Blanks and Simon Chilvers (alongside representatives from IWP retail partners), decided that Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne's collection was a stand-out affair. Paul Smith explained, "What was savvy about Public School was their skill with manufacturing and commerciality. Many items were fully fashioned, so for sportswear they could fit the shape of the body and could work for some of the major sportswear brands. They've already invested in production; the USA has a great focus on forward thinking beyond just designing it." Dylan Jones, Editor of British GQ, said their collection was "seriously impressive."
How was it working only with wool?
D-Y: It's all merino wool and it's all sweater knit. When we first entered the competition we wanted to create something totally different to what people first thought with merino wool. You might think of big chunky sweaters and heavy gauge knits, so we wanted to treat it the opposite, like compression. When you put these on, they're like tights, so it feels like active wear. We were going through the process and learning about the attributes of merino wool - it's moisture-wicking, heat-insulating. All the things that technical fibres do now, 100% wool has the same attributes.
M: The concept was post-apocalyptic, pre-historic times, so this is the only fibre that's left to survive, so there are no zippers or buttons or fasteners. It's really easy and clean.
Is it men-only, or unisex?
D-Y The concept was the last civilisation, so they would have had to do it for all living people, including males and females.
Well done on your DKNY post. Has working there started to affect your design work for Public School, or for this collection?
D-Y: It's yet to be seen how working there has affected us consciously. Sub-consciously maybe it's made our womenswear more feminine. The more obvious effect going on Public School is that we're seeing an LVMH brand versus our own start-up brand. So you see the magnitude and scale and everything they've accomplished and you want a piece of that.
Did you get advice from any other New Yorkers who've taken on a massive brand, say Alexander Wang?
M: The most influential people were Carol and Humberto from Opening Ceremony. We picked their brains a little bit, because it's also an LVMH brand and they do it out of New York. So we felt like we had the closest similarities. They also did a capsule collection with DKNY before, so they were great to talk to. They said what a great opportunity it was and that LVMH was great. They said it's great to be a duo, to travel and take on certain things. We can split apart and get the job done.
The collection will be available at MATCHESFASHION.COM as the exclusive online retailer.
Text Stuart Brumfitt