Speartalks: Public School

Posted on June 6, 2008 Under Fashion


Rebellion, in any form, has a few consistent characteristics. The color black, for instance, is a common accomplice, as are hot tempers, cool demeanors, and five o'clock shadows. However, the most important element to rebellion is the one thing that has nothing to do with its surface, and everything to do with its soul.

That thing is energy, and it manifests itself in art, words, sounds, and "“ we would argue "“ in the new men's fashion line Public School. Founded by Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, two Sean John ex-pats, Public School embraces the attitude of young New York, utilizing the creative rebellion of the city's well-cultivated steam as its source of inspiration.

As Public School draws closer to its second season, it has become apparent that the line's expertly directed construction, touchable materials, and lust-worthy lines are here to stay. Join us as we chat with its two designers about their goals, their drive, and what it takes to make it all come together.

Joshspear.com: The way you describe Public School on the website is almost philosophical. Can you tell us a little bit more about the brand's approach to culture, energy, and change?

Public School: Everything we do is a product of the culture we are immersed in. Music, film, art and fashion – its all energy, energy that we use for inspiration and try to put back into the world through our product.

JS: Dao-Yi; you were never classically trained, just very well immersed; Maxwell, you teach at Parsons every so often. Do you see any differences in the way you approach things due to that?

Public School: Actually our approach is pretty organic. Its starts from an idea and then we both add onto it. Sometimes one of us feels more compelled to an idea but we trust each other to develop it as far as we want to take it.

JS: You two met at Sean John, where I imagine the workday was very different for both of you. What do you miss about working for a big company/love about having your own?

Public School: The people, the staff, the idea of working together for a greater goal. Which is the same love that we have for working on our own company except all the responsibility lies in our hands. You have to be a lot more disciplined even though you have more freedom to fuck around. You also have more creative freedom obviously, which is always nice.

JS: Laura from Brand Pimps seems to have hit it head on by saying Public School was best described as Harajuku x Paris x Brooklyn. What other styles form the inspiration behind your label?


Public School: I think travel plays a big part. Seeing new places, new cities. The energy of a city, the nuances of how people move around in their own city. Also inspired by the power of the individual, celebrating confidence and attitude.

JS: Dao-Yi, Your store in Miami, Arrive, must have taught you a ton about the retail side of fashion. I'd imagine that that's very invaluable, as the two sides are so different, yet so interdependent – how has that side of your experience shaped what you're doing with Public School?

Public School: I think it affected the business side of things more than the creative. Retail is a tough business and there needs to be a partnership established between vendor and retailer. The prestige or mystique of a store means nothing if they don’t know how to move your product. Great product means nothing without stores that have a passion for what they do.

JS: You've described music as one of the main driving forces behind your creative output. How do sounds inspire your shapes and colors?

Public School: It provides a state of mind. It sets the mood so that we can get that attitude in the air when we put our line together. Our shapes and colors don’t really change so dramatically from season to season, but it just inspires us to think about the product harder. We can’t work without music.


JS: Some of this label's biggest passions, design-wise, seems be jackets and hoodies. Is that a fair statement?

Public School: Absolutely. Those categories to us just embody the idea of attitude. You put on a great outerwear piece or a great hoodie and you automatically feel invincible.

JS: Spring/Summer '08 made use of some serious leather! What were the inspirations behind this new collection?

Public School: More leather, more leather, more leather. The season was entitled “Over Achiever.” The idea of making something from nothing. Beating the odds. Winning when you’re expected to lose. That was the attitude we took, kind of the underdog feel, but our approach to the design process was to focus on making the pieces stand out even more. We designed a full–length trench coat in lamb, that was a little bit of a standout.

JS: You worked on a great bag collab with Rkives not too long ago "“ are any more super-limited editions, with them or anyone else, in the works?

Public School: Not yet. The Rkives collabo was with a friend of ours. He was designing his line at the same time and we both had houndstooth in our collection so it made sense. Sometimes collaborations feel a bit contrived so we try and be patient.