Public School is a success story. It began, it showed promise, it stumbled, it paused, it revived and renewed. It is stronger than before. That's an easy narrative to get behind, especially when the label's two designers are as charming and easy on the eyes as Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, former Sean John colleagues and lifelong New Yorkers. They first formed their label years ago as a sweats-and-tees line of gussied-up streetwear. Then, despite having worked its way into a niche, it fell off the radar. The two shut down operations, took a break, and when they returned, it was with new focus, new determination, and the backing of the CFDA. They quickly moved from the CFDA's Fashion Incubator program to being the latest recipients of its Swarovski Award for up-and-coming talent in menswear.
Is Public School as good as its heroic story? As of now, maybe. Chow and Osborne's brand of sportswear-cum-suiting is an idea that, in essence, is practiced by many in the menswear scrum. Their attention to the finer points of provenance (most of Public School is made in New York City) and styling (it's hard to imagine a better avatar for their low-key but still ultra-styled look than their presentation stylist, Eugene Tong) count in their favor. So does the fact that, since relaunching, the designers have been humbly building up both their chops and their retailers. Their Spring collection had the greatest breadth yet, and the furthest development of their ideas. Chow and Osborne kept their vision coherent while experimenting with new fabrics and shapes. Some worked, some didn't. Silhouette seemed to pose the biggest problem: A jodhpur-ish pant that ballooned around the thighs but tapered at the ankles was awkward, and the shorts-over-pants look that Public School has been plying for at least a season is enduringly odd. But for each stumble, there was an unshowy feat of strength that was better at second glance than at first: a nylon bomber jacket lined in suiting wool, for instance, or a sharp cashmere coat with inverted lapels. Those pieces suggested that the story is still unfolding. Much ballyhooed success is just one stop along the way.
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