Public School Spring/Summer 2017 NYC

Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow are ready for the revolution. In narrow terms, the duo have cast their Public School lot with the growing ranks of designers rejecting the standard fashion show calendar to present clothes on their own damn timetable.

Today, with Resort ’17 appointments afoot all over town, Chow and Osborne elected to stage a joint men’s and women’s Spring ’17 fashion show. Which means they’ll be sitting out Fashion Week in September—the better to stage a weeklong getaway to Ischia or Tulum, presumably.

Actually, given the anti-authoritarian tone of the clothes on the Public School runway, not to mention the show’s backdrop of faceless factory workers hammering away pointlessly at cinder blocks, it’s altogether more likely that Chow and Osborne would be snubbing fashion shows for a trip to Athens or Madrid or any other town where the youth are more or less in open revolt against “the system.” And thanks to the state of the current U.S. presidential election, they may not have to travel very far. Suffice to say, the Public School boys have picked up on the queasy mood among the young—and though it’s certainly a worthy effort to read that attitude into clothes, it’s also a tricky thing indeed to convey it via the medium of commercial fashion. Even the most sincere effort runs a high risk of seeming glib.

This collection didn’t quite meet the challenge. But it offered up some thoughtful propositions along the way. Chow and Osborne’s very good idea, here, was to conceive an urban guerrilla force uniform—one nonstandardized and scavenged together from whatever rough stuff was at hand. Both the men’s and women’s looks incorporated slashed garments, frayed tailoring, and parachute-nylon parkas and silk prints in eyeball-searing, caution-tape yellow. The print, the designers said after the show, was intended as a kind of flag. The ragtag quality of the looks got the scavenged effect across nicely; the call for collective action might have been clearer if the range comprising the ragtag army’s uniform had been, well, a little more uniform. One suspects that commercial considerations got in the way of that.

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Aside from that (intentionally) gaudy yellow, the catchiest aspects of this collection were its graphic, black-and-white melted flower print—a surprisingly pretty material used in a few of the women’s looks—and the patches on the men’s garments with the letters WNL scrawled over them. The letters stood for “We Need Leaders”—sort of a strange rallying cry for a collection with anarchist pretensions (Mr. Robot himself was in the front row, by the way) but one that Chow and Osborne indeed intended as ironic. “No more false leaders,” Chow said after the show. “No more false gods,” echoed Osborne. Or, as a certain leader once put it: “We are the change we seek.” Aux barricades!

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