Here to launch their Woolmark Prize winning men’s collection at Harvey Nichols, TheChicGeek grabbed design duo, Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow of American fashion label, Public School, for a couple of minutes to talk Made in the USA, DKNY and state schools
Left - Not your average public schoolboys! Dao-Yi & Maxwell of Public School
Winners of the inaugural International Woolmark Menswear Prize, Public School has been gaining attention over the last few seasons and has been tasked with the makeover of American fashion giant DKNY. The winning Woolmark collection is in their signature black and features machine body-conscious hoodies, sweaters and leggings and is available Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge and Matchesfashion.com.
Where did the name Public School come from? “It’s from the idea of New York being a melting pot. Public School is about not being an intimidating designer name: we wanted to make it something everybody could get into it,” says Maxwell.
Do they realise that public school means something completely different in the UK? I suggested they renamed the label ‘State School’, “We need to change the labels here!” laughs Maxwell.
So, they’ve just taken over at DKNY, will they be doing the menswear and what can we expect?
“No, just women’s. As for men’s, they’re exiting the business. Maybe in a couple of years it will return,” says Dao.
Right - The new Woolmark Prize winning men's knitwear on display at Harvey Nichols London
How would they sum up Public School for those not familiar with the label?
“It’s a men’s and women’s designer collection based out of New York and also the production is done in New York City. It’s around this idea of convergence and mixing,” Dao says.
How do they find production in the USA and doesn’t it make selling in Europe prohibitively expensive?
“Production is difficult in general. But, it’s easier for a company of our size, now, which is small, to keep production in the US,” says Dao.
“We have to get creative. Give a retailer discount if they can buy more to off-set the difference,” says Maxwell.
The Public School Woolmark Collection is available at Harvey Nichols & Matchesfashion.com - Prices - £235 - £740
Designers use the terms 'ombré' and 'degradé' to describe this graduated colour effect, while the high-street just cuts to the chase and opts for 'dip-dye' .
However you want to call it, it looks great in knitwear - as pictured here - and in particular in this grey.
American brand, Vince, is perfect if you're a messy eater, while M&S has the reverse effect, ideal for disguising a bit of belly.
Left - Vince - Wool/Casmere Ombré Pullover - £215 From StyleBop
You’ve probably noticed Gucci getting a lot of Chic Geek love recently. This is new, improved, just keeps on getting better Gucci: a Gucci that hasn't excited us since Tom Ford left the building over a decade ago.
One of the most distinctive items of their new look is the famous GG monogrammed canvas printed over with painted geraniums. Seen on bombers - as in the new Cruise SS16 advertising - here and various accessories.
A real man shouldn't be afraid to carry flowers, especially when they're on his duffle bag. Be the first to get this.
Left & Below - Gucci - GG Blooms Duffle Bag - £1100
It should be remembered that the term exclusive, long touted by fashion brands in the positive sense of the word, is the opposite of inclusive. The opposite, to exclude, becomes a negative: a pushing away and a physical wall between the them and us.
Left - The LV Series 3 Sticker Wall - Take home a sticker of an item you probably can't afford
Luxury brands tread a fine line between wanting the masses to buy en masse - they have to in order to sustain these giant businesses - while keeping this positive form of exclusivity.
As brands find it increasingly difficult to differentiate themselves in a crowded market, both in physicality and ideas, some are using that muscle to ‘educate’ the consumer and let them into this ‘exclusive’ world.
French brand, Louis Vuitton just opened a new, month long exhibition, opposite Australia House on The Strand, entitled LV Series 3, to showcase the thought processes their womenswear designer, Nicholas Ghesquière, had behind their current AW15 collection.
Like many of these things, it is a risk. You either leave with the brand going up higher or lower in your expectations. Obviously, the brand, spending huge sums of money, wants the former.
Rather than a wow, it wasn’t quite clear what you were looking at and then, unfortunately, you ask yourself, do I really care?
Brands have to be careful not to believe in their own myth and hype. They have to remember who put them there. Some of these things can have a touch of the Marie Antoinettes: the great unwashed allowed in, on their terms, to look, but not touch.
People are giving up their precious free time and making a journey to see these things featuring perspex boxes housing £5000 bags with the pretention that you should feel privileged that they are even allowing you in to see something you’ll never be able to afford.
I understand brands want and need to put their product on a pedestal in order to make it feel special, but it also needs to feel inclusive. If people are taking time out of their busy lives to frequent these things it needs to be on par or better than a museum show or don’t bother at all. These things are beautifully made and while there are two artisans demonstrating and making product inside the exhibit, you leave feeling like you don't know anymore than when you first went in.
It could be that I'm not a fan of Ghesquière's, but I went in wanting to be wowed and educated on why he's been given the top job at the world's biggest luxury goods company. It fell flat on that front. I left feeling that luxury brands need to remember that it’s important not to patronise if they want us to carry on patronising.
Let’s stop and reflect at the new Gucci for just one second. From what is a complete 180 degree u-turn of the brand their current customer is used to, they are doing exactly the right thing by distancing themselves from the tacky, status driven brand it had become.
Left & Below - Gucci Cruise SS16
In fashion we love a reinvention especially when you have the one person - whom you trust - take over all aspects of the business from design to stores to advertising to branding.
As ‘designer’ fashion becomes more unaffordable and high-street fashion gets better and cheaper, the chasm between the two keeps getting wider.
Consumers, the world over, are waking up and many can no longer justify the price of designer goods when it is so far from something they are reasonably happy with particularly when it comes to clothing.
Designer brands need to give us something we would find nowhere else. These need to be the ultimate new ‘vintage’ finds that make them feel like a discovery rather than something seen from Shanghai to Bond Street on every gormless tourist.
Gucci’s new Creative Director, Alessandro Michele said recently, “I think in the imagination of each of us, there is the idea of having a beautiful wardrobe of unique pieces.”
Okay, we’re not that naive to think Gucci are making only one of each item, but it certainly feels that way and that’s the clever thing.
Lots of international designer brands have been too busy chasing the volume and forgetting about the special. There is certainly the margins on these products to add something different and while Gucci will lose a lot of customers, they will certainly gain a select, influential and niche few.
Whether this can sustain the world’s second biggest luxury brand will have to be seen, but they are certainly making some beautiful and interesting things, again.
Drawing inspiration from classic 90s apparel - must be the This Is England influence already! British designer Christopher Shannon continues to reimagine menswear for his new collaboration with River Island.
Left - One of Shannon's sketches for the new collaboration
Known for his sports/streetwear, Shannon, has labelled this collection “Call The Cops”. He commented, "The brand has always been based in British culture, I think it’s good to keep connected with that and high street collaborations help us in achieving that goal".
The 11 piece collection launches in selected UK stores and online, with prices ranging from £30-120.
TheChicGeek was given an exclusive preview. Here are his favourite pieces from the new collection:
Right - Love Sweatshirt - £45
Left - Joggers - £45
Left - Bum Bag In Teddy Fur - £25
Left - T-Shirt - £30
Available 21st September
Okay, okay, for you discerning fashion gents out there this does have something of the Neil Barrett's about it, albeit with more colour. (He's moved onto lightning strikes anyway!)
Valentino are knocking it out of the park at the moment. They've lucked out on their Creative Directors, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, who are creating both commercial and beautiful items while keep all the different layers of fashion consumers happy.
If you're a ChicGeek reader then you're obviously part of the most sophisticated layer and nothing gets more sophisticated than this. Definitely a 'fashion' piece, it still has legs to become something of a timeless classic. The design is said to draw inspiration from the work of Australian artist Esther Stewart. A detectable blue sheepskin collar allows it to venture into deeper winter territory and despite keeping you warm, nothing looks cooler.
Left & Below - Valentino - Panelled Bomber Jacket With Shearling Collar - £1715