Public School Makes a Bold Industry Statement with 'Collection 1' Runway Show

"We need leaders."
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Photo: Randy Brooke/Getty Images

Photo: Randy Brooke/Getty Images

One label at the forefront of New York's Fashion Calendar overhaul is cool-kid and critical favorite Public School. Back in April, designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osbourne announced that they would do away with their traditional fall/winter and spring/summer shows during New York Fashion Week, and instead present their menswear and womenswear collections together twice a year — in June and December — in order to align more closely with the men's shows, the release of pre-collections and the retail delivery calendar. 

The goal of these cohesive runway presentations, dubbed "Collection 1" (pre-spring and spring) and "Collection 2" (pre-fall and fall), is multifaceted: Not only will they help the designers slow the breakneck pace at which they're expected to churn out collections and produce shows for both men and women, but it will also allow more time for the creative process, as well as push the "see now, buy now" conversation forward. Speaking to students at the Savannah College of Art & Design in April, Chow explained the move thusly: 

This weight has been lifted off [our] shoulders. When you guys graduate, there are all these rules you'll have to play by, especially entering as young designers. And those rules are slowly breaking down. The idea of having spring goods — short-sleeved shirts and skirts — on the retail floor in January doesn't make sense [...] You're going to be entering into a workforce where all these pillars that we've been standing on for so long are starting to collapse. It's the best time, because it's an opportunity to do something new, and [to do] things that just make sense for who you are.

With such an impassioned standpoint already established, it's no surprise that Public School's first "Collection 1" runway show, entitled "False Heroes," was centered around this need for change. As guests entered the venue on Tuesday afternoon, they were greeted by a literal assembly line of masked models thoughtlessly banging away on nondescript building blocks — perhaps a thinly veiled metaphor for the ever-churning industry machine. Both male and female models walked in largely seasonless — and, in many cases, genderless — designs that included utilitarian outerwear, lightweight, asymmetrical layers, neatly tailored sweats, oversized silhouettes and high-top leather sneakers. According to WWD, the clothing was designed to represent the "uniform of the revolution," with the models portraying the soldiers of the rebellion. As per usual for Public School, the casting played up androgyny and a downtown sensibility with a pared-down beauty look (a handful of ladies had shaved heads), as well as anonymity, with several faces obscured by black veils or hats.

For the grand finale, a graffiti artist emerged from backstage to tag the words "we need leaders" on the pristine monument-esque block that stood at the top of the runway. As much as this is likely a political commentary on the state of global affairs, it's also a fitting statement regarding the influx fashion industry. Does this mean the Public School designers feel it's their duty to lead the industry revolution in their home city? As Chow said at SCAD just over a month ago, "Our responsibility, maybe, is that we're supposed to break [the] tradition."

See "Collection 1: False Heroes" in full in the gallery below.