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Public School designers: Fashion's dynamic duo.

Summary: Why the label's designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne are the hottest names in the industry right now

Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of the label Public School. Image Credit: Cadillac > at Dubai Design District on November 9, 2015 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Image Credit: Getty Images > at Dubai Design District on November 9, 2015 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Image Credit: Getty Images A model walks the runway at the Public School show at Dubai Design District Image Credit: Getty Images A model walks the runway at the Public School show at Dubai Design District on November 9, 2015 in Dubai, Unit Image Credit: Getty Images A model walks the runway at the Public School show at Dubai Design District on November 9, 2015 in Dubai, Unit Image Credit: Getty Images A model walks the runway at the Public School show at Dubai Design District on November 9, 2015 in Dubai, Unit Image Credit: Getty Images By David TusingDeputy tabloid! Editor

Designer Dao-Yi Chow wears the abbreviation PSNY proudly. As one half of the duo behind fast-rising New York label Public School and, as of April, DKNY, Chow and design partner Maxwell Osborne are undoubtedly one of the hottest names in fashion right now. PSNY, one could infer, is a nice coincidental amalgamation of the two labels, both with very strong links to New York.

In Dubai to showcase a capsule collection, their first overseas show ever, the designers reflected on their meteoric rise to fashion stardom.

"I don't think we ever foresaw any of this. We started off just making clothes that we wanted to wear and for our friends to wear. We didn't' really have any big plans," says Chow.

Yet the past few years have been nothing but eventful. Starting with 2013, when they received the Swarovski men's designer award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and later that year, when they won the $300,000 (Dh1.1 million) CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, to April of this year, when they were named the creative directors of DKNY, Chow and Osborne say they are grateful, but not overwhelmed.

Their composure perhaps comes from the fact that, despite their sudden turn in the spotlight, their road to success has been a long one.

"It's a lesson in that the work that you put in doesn't always manifest right away," says Chow. "All the work that we put in didn't' happen as quickly as we thought it would. But I think it's a testament to the hard work and also to stay true to the vision and not to waver for you."

Chow and Osborne first met in 2001 while working at Sean John, the label owned by music mogul Sean 'P Diddy' Combs. Chow was the creative director and Osborne one of the designers. In 2005, Chow left to open his own fashion store and asked Osborne if he wanted to start an independent label. Osborne agreed and Public School was born in 2007.

"We have a similar aesthetic in terms of what we like. But for both of us, it starts from a personal place," explains Osborne. "We have similar upbringings and the reason we came together was because we had a joint love affair with New York City where we both grew up. We were working in the same kind of place, listening to the same kind of music."

As Public School popularity grew, the designers were chosen in 2010 to be part of the CFDA incubator programme, which supports promising designers for two years by providing them low-cost studios, mentorship and networking opportunities. Their menswear win came soon after and quickly Public School was the hottest label in town. Chow and Osborne debuted their womenswear collection at New York Fashion Week in February last year to much praise. Then, earlier this year came the DKNY job, the more accessible line of Donna Karan International, owned by the LVMH Group.

Taking on DKNY was like taking another wife, Osborne says laughing.

"You have to give both of them the same attention," he says. "We were not really scared to take the responsibility on, but more concerned about how Public School would take it. Because it was something we raised from the ground up. But we've worked hard to make sure that they can both exist in the same world and we are excited to learn from a big corporation."

"We're still learning five months into it. We're still adjusting," adds Chow. "There are some crossovers [between Public School and DKNY] in the sense that the energy and spirit we put into it is the same. But we want to make the two things very unique. Give the characters their own.

"Yes, we have more freedom with our own label. When you want to do something, you just do it. We have tremendous freedom at DKNY but we work with a much bigger team. Everyone has to be in line before we can move ahead with something. So that's different."

The theme of dual existence continues even in their collections. For the Dubai show, funded by Cadillac, which used the event to launch its brand new 2017 XT5 car, the designers showcased a pre-fall capsule collection that explores grey areas.

"The concept behind the collection is the technological world crossing over to the natural world, where one thing starts and the other ends. You have this grey area," explains Chow. "A city like Dubai represents that contrast. You have this new city that's built in the desert with nothing around. It basically dropped in the middle of nature. So it's an interesting parallel."

Recent rumblings in the fashion world, after Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz quit the French house after 13 years and Raf Simons left Christian Dior, have reenergised debates about whether or not design heads were becoming increasingly pressurised into delivering collection after collection. Osborne, says he can definitely see how it can be too much to handle. But he thinks Chow and he have a working formula.

"Between Public School and DKNY, we have to do 10 collections a year. That's a lot. And I can see it taking its toll and designers wanting to sometimes take a break. But the benefit for us is that we are working on different brands. That kind of helps in bouncing back and forth.

"As much as designers love to create, you can't create so much some times. So we always stay inspired, get really excited and really anxious to put out new products that it makes the time go faster. So it's not like you ever settle or anything.

"I can see how people can get burned out. But we just have a lot of adrenaline right now. We're just running off adrenaline."

That they are two, helps, he says.

"Being in a business relationship is almost like a marriage. And creative differences help us push it to where we're both comfortable to create something.

"Yes, we have arguments. But it never gets that bad. It's never really about design. It's usually more about business. And it's only natural. Tension brings out the best in both of us."

Chow believes their very New York aesthetic has struck a chord with fashion lovers around the world because of their consistency. Public School is often credited for blending street wear with high fashion to great results.

"There's an effortless ease to it. And at the same time, there's a strength and an attitude," he says. "For us it's finding a way to keep that same spirit in the collection but also to make it new again every season."

The next five years will see their men's and women's business grow as well as the opening of their own flagship, says Maxwell.

"We want to really show the full scope of who we really are, and we'd love to open a store here in Dubai," he says.

"Consistency is important for us," adds Chow. "It's about believing in yourself, having the vision and not to waver from it. You can't expect to have any longevity if you keep changing and moving around all the time. So it's better you stick to what makes you - you."

By David Tusing, Deputy tabloid! Editor

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Nov 21, 2015
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