On the heels of their second big CFDA win this year (they won the CFDA Best Emerging Menswear award and just last month, they won the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund), Public School founders, Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, spoke a bit about what they've learned recently. Here it is ...
Sometimes less is more. Dao-Yi Chow: For the initial presentation, we kept it simple. Early on, we made the decision that we weren’t going to do any installations or bring in a performer or anything elaborate. We really wanted to make it about us and about our product. We also just wanted to be ourselves and have our personalities come though. Max and I don’t really take ourselves too seriously, maybe to a fault, and we just wanted to make sure we kept some sort of lightheartedness about the whole thing.
Except when more is more. Chow: For the Uniqlo design challenge, we really wanted to make sure we killed it in terms of nailing the concept. They gave us each $20,000 in development money to put the look together, and I think we spent close to 40 grand trying to make sure everything was perfect. We just wanted to paint a full picture and wound up with nine pieces, including accessories — we did shoes, a bag, hats, a glove. We were surprised that we did so much more than the other designers — not, like, better or worse — just more. But I think the judges really appreciated that.
Don’t obsess over other people’s opinions. Maxwell Osborne: At first glance, Anna Wintour was the most intimidating judge to us, but towards the end it became Jeffrey Kalinsky. He didn’t even talk to us in our first presentation. And at the Uniqlo challenge he didn’t say anything. It was kind of weird — it kind of felt like he was not really a huge fan of ours. So it became intimidating like, “Why the hell isn’t this guy asking us questions or trying to pick us apart or just…something?” So we had to learn not to focus too much on what people were thinking. If we were to judge our whole Fashion Fund experience on Jeffrey Kalinsky, I guess we wouldn’t be where we are now. If you just keep your head down and keep doing what you’re doing, I think the chips will fall where they may.
Winning isn’t the end goal. Chow: You sort of have to do x amount to get in the door, but even more to stay there. The work is just beginning for us. And you can never really stop or take a break or fall back on your laurels. That feeling of winning is pretty fleeting. It was so great that night — it still feels great — but you can’t just live there, you gotta keep it moving.
Being the face of a brand can make you self-conscious. Osborne: I really hate the way I look onscreen and actually talking, so I think this might be the last interview I ever do. And, while we were filming [for the documentary series The Fashion Fund], I learned how to suck in my stomach for hours on end because I didn’t want to look fat. I need to go on a cleanse.
Chow: I think maybe I smile too much. In all our press photos, I’m always doing this really big, cheesy smile. My wife told me maybe I should try and do it a little bit less.