Public School maestros Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow added another layer of meaning to the name of their brand by staging a public show this morning. Local fashion students lined the block around Milk Studios, where an ersatz runway had been set up on the sidewalk; they got the first look at the new Public School menswear collection, whereas industry insiders, seated indoors, got the last glance at the models, as they concluded their lengthy défilé. Worker bees in the fashion biz had better get used to this kind of thing: The velvet ropes are coming off the catwalk, as the traditional fashion show transforms into consumer theater.

That was the meta. Coincidentally, though, the models’ indoor-outdoor meander actually resonated the collection’s theme. Osborne and Chow took inspiration from Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 film, The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring the late and very much lamented David Bowie as an alien who wanders the Earth in search of water for his home planet. The tribute was timely, but that was another coincidence—the designers had begun work on the collection well before Bowie passed away. Ever the perfect muse, he inspired Public School’s best outing yet. Osborne and Chow’s riff on The Man Who Fell to Earth was literal enough to be recognizable to those familiar with the film and its wardrobe, but mainly, it served as a focusing device, a means of playing with new silhouettes and proportions without entirely eschewing the streetwise Public School idiom. The collection’s high necks and the emphasis on nipped waists and blouson tops spun the brand’s aesthetic in a new direction.

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Osborne and Chow also interpreted the film conceptually, making a motif of a triangle—the symbol for water—and deploying a soupçon of deconstruction to suggest an ethos of make-do. The latter was especially evident in the duo’s distressed denim pieces, but it showed up as well in details like the Velcro closures on certain blazers. That was a sharp touch, and one of many thoughtful grace notes in the collection—triangular pockets and stitching were also among these; so too the ruched sleeves on the bomber and sweatshirt done in a dense wool plaid. These clothes felt very considered. Not so much that they lost their casual aplomb, but just enough that they came off as specific and thorough. Alongside the savvy fabric choices, such as jacquarded camo and boiled mohair, the thoroughness elevated the collection. Nicely done.

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