Just when you think they might ease up, Public School keep killing the clothing game from all angles. Last week Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne received not one but two CFDA nominations in both menswear and womenswear categories (and this is after winning both the CFDA Swarovski Award for Menswear and the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2013, plus many other esteemed fashion awards in the last few years). With their continued Jordan collabs, including the recent Jordan X, it's safe to say that Public School is still a triple threat and have also played an important role in legitimizing sneaker culture through the realm of high fashion. And they've done it while staying true to their roots, as well.
This week Public School have brought New York to Miami with the "Tropic City Pack" and Jordan Xs exclusively for guests and artists at the Red Bull Guest House during Miami Music Week. Inspired by the type of traveler who might go between Miami and New York often, the capsule collection has a pattern fusing New York's pigeon feathers with Miami's palm trees, a T-shirt that says "YOU'RE WELCOME," a New Era hat, a mesh tank top, a pair of branded Onia trunks, and a Tumi Alpha 2 large wheeled duffle.
We spoke to Public School about the "Tropic City Pack" and their most recent Jordan X collab.
What inspired the design of the Tropic City Pack?
Maxwell Osborne: We wanted to play into both men's and women's a bit, hence the mesh, the hat, and the bag, which give it versatility. It’s just a fun little gift bag, like what you would want if you were traveling.
Dao-Yi Chow: And then we wanted to bring, of course, a little piece of New York to Miami. That’s sort of what we were trying to go for with that print.
What are you trying to say with the “YOU’RE WELCOME” text on the T-shirt?
Dao-Yi Chow: Since it’s the guest house, we were trying to play with the double entendre, like “you are welcome to our guest house” and “you’re welcome.”
I’m sure the DJs who come through will be surprised that they’re getting such a nice uniform for the weekend.
Dao-Yi Chow: Exactly. How excited would you be if you came in and got a pair of sneakers, swimming trunks, a T-shirt, and a bag? That’s the kind of feeling we wanted to invoke.
So why the Jordan X for your most recent Jordan Brand collab?
Dao-Yi Chow: We sort of time it out with Jordan and what they’re releasing. We work in unison with them, and the Xs were something that they were about to release. For the last two shows, we’ve debuted the Jordans on the runway in a different colorway from the release they’re doing, and then they let us customize a pair, and we’re able to get them out to our friends and family. So usually it just works on their calendar of whatever shoe they’re about to release and that they’re trying to push.
Maxwell Osborne: It’s fun for us that the inside sole of that sneaker gives people a little bit of Public School’s history. So if you don’t know about Public School, you read the insole and then you’re like OK, this is what they do, or what they did.
What made you want to do it as just a friends and family release?
Dao-Yi Chow: Until we do our official commercial release, since we don’t want to sell them, and there are only a limited number of pairs, it’s a friends and family thing. For us it’s worth more to give it to our friends and family who really appreciate it. But eventually we’ll have a commercial release.
When are they being released?
Maxwell Osborne: It’s a secret!
Dao-Yi Chow: Could be this weekend, you never know! Or it could be next year.
How does it feel to be nominated for both the Menswear Designer of the Year Award and the Swarovski Award for Womenswear CFDA awards? Is this the ideal scenario for you—to have a strong foot and equal recognition in both worlds?
Maxwell Osborne: We started with men's and then launched women's. The women’s nod is just another humbling experience, same with the men's nod. It’s really humbling. I’m still shocked actually. It doesn’t even feel real right now. For me it doesn’t feel real at all.
What have been your biggest goals with transitioning into womenswear?
Dao-Yi Chow: Our main goal has been to be able to present a full, credible women’s collection—a women’s collection every season that has a unique point of view and is recognized specifically as a Public School point of view. We’re three seasons in now, and I think it’s still evolving for us.
What or who is the Public School woman or women you have in mind when designing?
Dao-Yi Chow: We’re finding out that she has many sides. When we first approached it, we approached one side of her. But now we’ve turned the corner, and there’s another side. And you keep turning the corner, so it’s continually evolving, but we just really want to approach it the same way we did with menswear and stick to our point of view, create our own name, and do things that hopefully people like and respect.
What have you found are the biggest differences between the menswear and womenswear industries, creatively or from the business side?
Maxwell Osborne: Textiles. There's just a wider range of things that you can do with women’s as opposed to men’s. It takes men a little bit longer to get into newer things, and I think with women are always ready and willing to experience new things. So it’s fun for us to experience that design process.
How do you keep your New York sensibility while expanding internationally and bringing things to a city like Miami?
Maxwell Osborne: It’s easy because we were born and raised in New York, and that’s where our aesthetic comes from. If we went out of the country for five years, you’d still have that New York sensibility, because it comes from memory and childhood for us.
Do you feel like you’ve played a role in legitimizing sneaker culture through the realm of high fashion?
Dao-Yi Chow: Our collaborations with Jordan have been such a dream come true and a blessing.
Maxwell Osborne: I don’t think we would say that we have been, but if you think about the timing, with everything that made that transition and that switch, I would say we are at least at the forefront of it.
Dao-Yi Chow: For us it isn’t any different. It came with the territory, so it’s not like one thing led to another. It’s that they always come hand to hand.