Public School Uses the Past To Reimagine the Future

From a pop-up replacing their runway show to partnering with Nike

Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne of New York native brand Public School have never been the type to take a safe approach to their designs or projects. Everything they have created has been done through their NYC-centric, sport-based lenses. Whether it’s the red MAGA-defying hats they showed on the runway last February—that read “Make America New York” and offered proceeds to the ACLU—or their backpack collaboration with TUMI that employed NASA-approved materials, those influences are always present. So it comes as no surprise that this season they’re doing away with their traditional runway show and instead making a splash with a new pop-up shop at 3 Howard St.

by Mike Tommasiello

Within the temporary space, the brand has debuted its latest collaboration with Nike, who happens to be making its own news right now for a powerful endorsement in NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. For their thirtieth anniversary campaign, Kaepernick’s visage appears in the latest iconic “Just Do It” advertisement—with an acknowledgement of sacrificing everything for what you believe in, certainly something the athlete has done. 

As for Public School’s Nike collaborative collection, it includes three highly-anticipated Air Force 1 colorways, as well as customizable jerseys and basketball gear. And after first appearing on the feet of friends and family of the brand as a special design, the sneakers are finally seeing a wider release via the pop-up store—and likely through the Nike app.

Ahead of the store opening, as a line of hopeful fans started to form along Howard St, we chatted with both Chow and Osborne regarding their new Air Force 1 designs, the pop-up and how fashion and its presentation continue to change.

by Mike Tommasiello

Can you share with us the inspiration for the Air Force 1 silhouette and how you guys reimagined it?

Dao-Yi Chow: We couldn’t decide whether we wanted to do a high or a low, so we did all three: a high, a mid, and a low. The Air Force 1 is like the perfect form to us, so we knew we couldn’t do anything to make it better than it is now. We just took all the existing components from all three of the silhouettes and put them together. There were no new pattern pieces, no new materials, no new dyes, no new fabric. So it was just taking something that was existing that we thought was perfect and then making something new from it.

How did you guys come up with the idea to do this pop-up store and how do you hope people communicate and interact with the clothes and the experience and the brand and lifestyle?

Maxwell Osborne: Well, this is pretty much like our permanent pop-up store, so we’ve been doing a lot of activations out of here. This is just an easy segue into doing this Nike + Public School launch, shooting it, and giving it its own feel, so now people are having this custom piece. And again, with the idea of the sneakers and taking these custom pieces and building it up, we’re doing the same thing with the garments here—even taking all the old Nike apparel and using that as customization for these new pieces, and taking something that’s old and creating something new from it.

Are you gonna be showing the proper Public School collection in this same venue after this? Will you be be rotating new things in?

by Mike Tommasiello

MO: Yes. It’s going to keep rotating.

Do you find this approach more successful than just showing traditionally and having it be in stores six months later?

DC: Yeah, absolutely. For us, we’re not saying we’re never doing runway shows again, but when we feel like we want to present the collection in a show format, then we’ll do that. For right now, this is the way we want to approach things, to have it be something new every single month, and for people to just be able to experience it in person.

In a time where more and more designers are abandoning brick and mortar stores for online shops, Public School is going back to basics—giving their consumer a way to fully experience the brand in a tactical, three-dimensional type of way in the hopes that the story they’re telling will be even more clear and concise. If the line that had formed three hours prior to the official store opening was any indication, people are ready to spend their time (and money) in traditional stores—meaning that the designers over at Public School may be onto something.