Catching Up with Public School Designers Dao-Yi Chao and Maxwell Osborne
Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, the designers behind New York-based label Public School, are just as cool as the cutting-edge garments they create. Their works pay homage to the dynamic city slicker—an obvious connection to the duo’s gritty NYC roots. From high-neck sheath dresses to impeccably tailored biker jackets, their flawless designs have earned them a spot on the CFDA/Vogue Fashion fund and collaborations with names like J.Crew, Nike, DKNY, and the Yankees. And this November, the designers are set to release their latest collaboration with Fitbit, what they deem a sleek, “lo-fi” approach to a popular, high-tech product.
Dressed in head-to-toe black and a signature pair of kicks, the designers made a special appearance at Saks last week to showcase some of their eclectic looks. Before their on-stage Boston debut, they told us about the brand’s inspirations, high profile collaborations, and how they’re handling “success” so far.
On describing the Public School customer:
Maxwell Osborne: Someone who is well traveled and hops into different circles.
Dao-Yi Chow: Someone who is also culturally aware. They have exposure and access to—whether it’s from real life experience or online—some of the bigger cultural touch points that are happening.
On the brand’s name:
DYC: The most influential time in our lives was growing up in NYC. All the attributes you need to succeed in public school in New York of being authentic, original, tough, street smart, and culturally aware were characteristics we wanted our collection to embody.
On the duo’s love of sports:
DYC: We grew up playing sports—it’s in our DNA. In our era, we weren’t inside at home on our phones—we were out in the street playing kickball, stickball, and basketball. Anything you can do on the street is part of our brand.
[Note: Chow, who is a huge fan of the Knicks, was arranging M&Ms in the team’s colors of blue and orange as we spoke.]
On the inspiration behind the fall 2016 collections:
MO: For men’s, the line was based off David Bowie and the film he starred in, The Man Who Fell to Earth. We’ve always talked about standing apart from everybody else, so Bowie’s persona definitely steered us in that direction. For women’s, we were inspired by the film The Warriors, which embodied the lawless time in New York in the ’70s. This idea that you can pretty much do anything you want influenced our aesthetic for the collection.
On their favorite looks from the fall 2016 line:
DYC: The long pink coat in boiled wool. It’s not a color we normally use, but it captured so many emotions for us.
MO: We also introduced an olive color palette where a lot of the necks on garments are built out. That was fun to me because it had this mystery behind it—the models came out and you couldn’t really see their entire faces.
On their collaboration with Fitbit:
DY: All the collaborations we do are with products we use. I run and train for the New York City Marathon, so I use my Fitbit Surge all the time. Plus, Fitbit is a huge brand, so it was awesome to be able to work with them.
MO: We’ve always had this idea of sophisticated ease. You can pick up Public School and go from day to evening and not have to change or think about it. And Fitbit’s great at that as well. The idea of wearing Fitbit, staying active, and being on the move was something that really resonated with us.
On their dream collaborator:
MO: We would love to work with Apple on something music-related.
On their future plans:
DY: We’re working on our next collaboration, which comes out in 2017. We’re also doing a little retail pop-up shop in NYC in the first few months of the year.
On the brand’s catapulting success:
MO: I don’t think we’re successful—we’re far from successful actually. But no. For starters, I didn’t think it would take us to Boston. When we started our collection, we dressed ourselves and our friends in New York—we all had a like-mindedness about what we wanted to wear. So it was definitely surprising to hear that Boston was talking about Public School as well.
DY: When we travel to different places, people will come up to us and say, “Oh, you know we’re fans of PS.” And I’m like, “Really?” We still can’t believe it. That’s probably the coolest thing about this job.