Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne barely have time to eat their salads. It is 2 p.m. on a muggy Thursday, and the designers are hunched over takeout boxes at their publicist’s showroom in Soho, shoveling bites of chicken and lettuce into their mouths with chopsticks. They’ve just flown back from the Paris menswear shows, where they presented their latest collection for Public School, the small men’s label they started in 2008.
Even though their mouths are full, both men greet me cheerfully. It’s a great day for them: Just the night before, they were named as finalists for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. If they win, they’ll get up to $300,000 in prize money, as well as valuable business connections. This comes just a few weeks after they won the Swarovski Menswear Award at the CFDAs, which was a shock to them both. (When Osborne got to the microphone onstage, his first words were “Holy shit!”)
Both born and raised in New York City, Chow and Osborne look the part: They're stylish, relaxed, and masculine, but you'd never describe them as "coiffed" or "dapper." And their brand provides a streetwear-inspired alternative to the preppy, bowtie-wearing crowd that’s dominated menswear over the past few years. Chow, 39, is married and has two young children. He's dressed in a fitted black shirt and chinos. Osborne, 30, wears a gray American Apparel T-shirt and black pants that look like a pair of loose shorts with a closer-fitting layer underneath. Both wear slick black sneakers.
The designers first met when they worked together at Sean John, Puff Daddy’s clothing line, in the early aughts (both still refer to their former boss as “Puff”). Chow eventually became the label’s creative director, while Osborne oversaw all woven design. Chow left in 2005 to launch Arrive, a Miami-based men’s retail store, but they kept in touch.
The idea for Public School was born out of frustration: “We were walking through a showroom one day, talking about what we were excited to wear as individuals,” says Osborne. “And we were like, ‘Shit, there’s nothing really here. What the fuck are we doing? Let’s start a brand.’”
Several months of sleepless nights followed as the pair worked out of Chow’s apartment in Soho. “All I remember is all the ramen and McGriddles we ate during that time,” Chow recalls. They were self-financed and kept to a lean budget, but the independence meant they could move at their own pace. “Being naïve was actually great,” says Osborne. “If we’d known what we were getting into, we probably wouldn’t have started it.” Adds Chow, “We had a lot of luck on our side. Whenever people ask us for advice on starting their own line, we usually try to talk them out of it.”
The line’s name is a reference to their respective childhoods in New York City. Chow went to PS 69 in Jackson Heights and then Stuyvesant for high school, while Osborne went to PS 41 in the West Village. “I was sort of a floater,” says Chow of his school years. “I was never just a goth kid or a hip-hop kid, or a jock. And that’s what our label is about — this idea of convergence, bringing different worlds together and still making it feel genuine.”
What results is a relaxed combination of streetwear and suiting — a more urban take on the high-low mix that the fashion industry often extols. “The look is modern, edgy, tailored sportswear,” says Chow of their relaxed knit pants, leather jackets, and ombré-dyed flannel shirts. “Our customer is the 28-to-45-year-old male who’s well traveled and appreciates high-low references, from music to food to film.” While their look is commonly described as “downtown,” don't tell them that. “It’s too clichéd,” Chow explains.
So what’s next for them? Chow makes a “W” shape with his hands, and grins at Osborne. “I say women’s,” he says. Osborne shakes his head, and Chow laughs, adding, “He’s a little reluctant. But women’s is definitely our next big move.” What might their female customer look like? “She’ll definitely have the same aesthetic as our male customer,” he says, declining to give a time line. Chances are they're waiting to hear about the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund prize, which could help them get it off the ground. "We're still working it out. But we know who she is — she’s modern, sophisticated, and edgy.”
Shop: Public School
Most Viewed Stories
The Big Secret of Every Dating App: Tech Doesn’t Matter
American Apparel Files for Bankruptcy
How to Get Out of Any Party Conversation
‘Truly Ugly Guy With Glasses’ Is Europe’s Most Virile Man
Astrology GIFs for the Week of October 5, 2015
Ellie Kemper Thinks Kimmy Schmidt Would Fit in Well in Greenpoint
All the Ceilings Women Keep Hitting Their Heads On
Sleater-Kinney on Riot Grrl, Reuniting, and Portlandia
Why Do I Jerk Awake Right As I’m Falling Asleep?
From Our Partners
How Demi Lovato Embraced This Body “Problem” We All Have
The Day I Told The Ugly Truth About My Marriage
5 Must-Have Products for Your Makeup Bag
J.Crew Is Shifting Away From a High Fashion Image, Focusing Instead on Its Heritage
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Fashion Features5 Things I Want to Wear From Paris: Part 3
Stripes, embroidered separates, and Céline studded boots.Cindy Crawford on Bagels, Instagirls, and Bringing the Supermodel Era to TV
And how she's helping her daughter navigate the pressures of the modeling industry.Zendaya Floated Around Paris Like a Cloud
Dreamy.See Our Exclusive Portfolio From Paris Fashion Week
Another fashion month dispatch from photographer Tomasz Lazar.Coddington, Kawakubo Star in Interview Portfolio
They were photographed for a sweeping 60-page section by Fabien Baron.American Apparel Files for Bankruptcy
Current shareholders, including Dov Charney, will no longer control the company.The Retired Modeling Agent Who Loves Empire
“I started my own agency — we represented Twiggy — but went off to be assistant to the actor Yul Brynner, who was dating my roommate at the time.”Bright Coats for Cold Days
New York women in winter's least-boring outerwear, from bright-green alpaca fur to leopard-print mohair.Céline’s Woman-Friendly Triumph
Phoebe Philo remains in touch with what women want to wear.Watch the Alexander McQueen Livestream
Enjoy!From Up Close, Raf Simons’s Vision for Dior Is Clear
And don't count John Galliano out at Margiela yet.5 Things I Want to Wear From Paris: Part 2
Cropped sweaters, a spangled skirt, and more.Jaden Smith and Kesha Partied This Week
Along with Cindy Crawford, Anjelica Huston, Rita Ora, and Lena Dunham.Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid Partied in Balmain
Plus: more highlights from Paris Fashion Week's parties, including Jared Leto.See All the Street Style From Paris Fashion Week
Featuring wooden platforms, velvet robes, and floor-length ponchos.Who Won Best-Dressed at Milan Fashion Week?
Another city, another people's choice Peacock.Style Smackdown: Olivia Pope vs. Cookie Lyon
Judging the best looks from this week's episodes.Never Mind the Feminist Sound-Bites, Rick Owens Just Showed His Best Clothes Yet
Gymnast models symbolizing "women supporting women" wore mature yet spontaneous looks.Grace Jones Is Having the Wildest Book Tour Ever [NSFW]
She flashed crowds at her signing in New York.