NEW YORK, United States — The most dramatic moment of Public School’s Autumn/Winter 2016 menswear show didn’t happen on the runway. Instead, it was when the backstage curtain was lifted, not only revealing the innards of a fashion show — clothing racks and grooming stations — but also a swarm of design-school kids standing outside of the venue. Designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne invited them to be there, creating a makeshift runway on the sidewalk, so that they didn’t have to peer through the glass windows just to catch a glimpse.
Chow and Osborne certainly aren’t the first to transform a private runway show into a public event. Marc Jacobs did something similar last season at the Ziegfeld Theatre, as did Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci on a New York City pier. But there was something sweet about Public School’s gesture. “They’re actually going to see it first,” Osborne explained before the proceedings got underway. (Just a few minutes later, models walked down the outdoor runway before snaking back into the venue for the rest to see.) “Feeling like the outsiders, always, we were happy to give the students of New York and fans of the brand the opportunity to come out and watch the show today.”
It’s clear that Chow and Osborne really do feel like outsiders, which seems unfathomable given the amount of support they’ve received from the American fashion industry, not to mention the string of celebrities that happily sat front row, including Victor Cruz and Fabolous. And yet, they don’t have a superior attitude.
In fact, their intentions appear quite genuine. This season, for instance, the collection was inspired by David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth. (The mood board, in case you were wondering, was kitted out long before the legendary artist died on January 10.) “That character resonates with us and with the Public School guy,” Chow explained. “He’s searching for his home. Us, we’re always searching for our right place.”
Have they found it? The collection had a good amount of punch, with its outdoorsy quilted pants and plaid flannel sweatshirt ruched up the back of the arm. The duo favoured high-waisted trousers — mostly peg-legged — worn with double-wrapped leather belts or under an attached apron. Where they really excelled, though, was outerwear. The puffy camo-parka lined in orange, a black suede pullover anorak and a quilted blue topcoat with jumbo-sized shearling lapels were the sorts of showpieces a confident customer could get behind.
What the collection lacked was reinvention. Instead, there was a feeling of ticking off trends and categories: worn-in denim jackets, collarless woven shirts styled over turtlenecks, little-boy sweatpants. But despite their intermittently flawed execution, Chow and Osborne obviously have something special. Their clothes excite people. One wants to believe that they can take the frenetic energy building around them and funnel it into something superior. And in this case, superior would be a good thing. Here’s hoping they don’t let all this noise hold them back.