public school revisits new york’s outlaw days for fall/winter 16

The design duo channeled the lawlessness of early-80s New York with its loose, layered women’s offering.

by Emily Manning
15 February 2016, 3:05pm

Public School designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow have been feeling arty lately. In November, they curated prints for Sotheby's. They gave away tickets to their most recent men's show at The Whitney. And yesterday morning, the pair debuted their fall/winter 16 womenswear offering inside Hauser & Wirth, a contemporary art space in Chelsea and the former home of The Roxy, a legendary roller disco club. It's where Belgian artist Berlinde de Bruyckere is presently exhibiting a series of dark, hulking sculptures, as well as a few foreboding installations involving animal hides. By accident or design, the PS pair could not have selected a more apt venue for a collection inspired by the city's "wild west" era.

"We started with the idea of old New York -- thinking about the city in the late 70s early 80s and how it was this lawless town," said Chow after the show. "There was a real sense of 'wild, wild west.'" He should know; he and Osborne were born and raised in Queens and Brooklyn respectively -- at a time when Times Square was home to junkies and sex shops, not tourists and selfie sticks. "It's a little Revenant meets The Warriors," Chow added. "Our woman being the outlaw and trying to make it through the city."

Though the Coney Island gang would be pleased with yesterday's offering of vests, tight brown leather wasn't on the menu. Instead, Osborne and Chow pursued looser shapes and lots of layering. Oversized ponchos and slouchy skirts arrived in mostly natural fabrics like wool -- a departure from the tailored, techy men's collection that walked earlier this month. "For men's, we wanted to go high waisted, but in the women's, you saw the looser fit as connected to the idea of lawlessness," said Osborne. "This woman needed room and needed her proportions to play and to move within old New York."

One similarity between the two collections -- big leather belts. For men's, the accessory helped balance an otherwise super streamlined silhouette. But the women's belts created volume and 80s sartorial clash. Generously draped wool tops arrived belted under slightly distressed overcoats -- bundling sensibilities often displayed in street snaps by Mark Cohen or Harvey Stein. 

Another era relic debuted yesterday: the pair's anticipated collaboration with FitBit. "Obviously there weren't any wearables in old New York, so it was really looking at it from less of a technology standpoint and more in a lo-fi, organic way," said Chow. The pair's "empty old man's watch with the face knocked out and the technology popped in," as Chow described it, does really feel at home in the wider, vaguely dystopian collection. Like a lifelong Canal Street hustler.


Text Emily Manning
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans

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