Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, founders of Public School and two-time CFDA award winners, are undoubtedly the new stars of New York’s fashion scene. Redefining the look of American sportswear, Chow and Osborne are also the city’s new arbiters of cool as the Creative Directors of DKNY.
On paper, the duo’s partnership with DKNY seems destined to work like a dream. In the last eight years, heading Public School has allowed Chow and Osborne to hone a street-influenced aesthetic that’s definitive of the Big Apple. The designers, both bona-fide New Yorkers, are also familiar with the frenetic cityscape that has provided the backdrop for every DKNY collection since its inception in 1989. “Growing up in New York, everyone felt connected to DKNY because it was all about the city. It captured the energy and hustle like no other brand,” the designers told Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore. “It was authentic and wasn’t trying to be something else.”
Donna Karan’s move to start the brand was rooted in the idea of “designing practical clothes for the New York woman.” “But how to make that desirable again is the mission for us now,” Chow and Osborne said. And in a season when Riccardo Tisci made the surprise move to show Givenchy’s spring/summer 2016 collection in New York, and Alexander Wang, his much hyped-about 10th anniversary collection, Chow and Osborne’s debut for DKNY—all 41 outfits parading up and down a pared-back set—held its own against the big players of New York Fashion Week.
“We were really inspired by this image of Madonna from her “Blonde Ambition” tour. She was wearing this Jean Paul Gaultier double-breasted, pinstriped suit with strategic cut-outs to perform,” the pair recalled. More than a timely nod to a musical icon whose powerful artistry is intricately tied to American popular culture, the duo’s symbolic move to cut a masculine, loose-fit blazer as the opening look for the show referenced yet another Donna Karan emblem and brand signature: The pinstriped suit.
From there, Chow and Osborne focused on the fashions of the late ’80s and the supermodel movement that swiftly followed in the next decade. Besides crisp t-shirts tucked into faultless skirts, tailored rompers and oversized coats, the collection transitioned into monochromatic slip dresses that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a 20-year-old Kate Moss. In a thinly veiled throwback to the brand’s beginnings, an emotive black-and-white photograph lensed by Peter Lindbergh for DKNY’s 1994 advertising campaign was used as a print on a shirt-dress.
Chow and Osborne have described their vision of the new DKNY woman as a go-getter who’s multi-dimensional and on the cusp of something great. “She never really stops, always progressing,” they said. In response, their work for a refreshed brand is also “evolving.” And judging from their measured first showing, Chow and Osborne are on track to empower the DKNY woman with a bold outlook for 21st-century living.
By Gerald Tan