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Last night in NYC, local luxe-streetwear darling Public School presented its SS17 collection at a rather desolate location (as in not easily reachable via public transportation) in midtown Manhattan.

As you may recall after the news broke in April, this season, designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne made the decision to merge both their men’s and women’s collections and showcase during the pre-collection schedule, ahead of the traditional ready-to-wear fashion week calendar.

After waiting for an unusually (but predictably) long amount of time for the event to start, spectators sat and watched while models at the front of the stage tirelessly hammered at concrete bricks and painted on a large white monument, all while wearing these Breaking Bad jumpsuit getups and black mesh executioner-type face masks.

According to Chow, the monument addition symbolized “the rise of leaders who shouldn’t be leaders. It’s very dystopian and George Orwellian ‘1984.’ We need to wake up and snap out of it.” A bit melodramatic to be quite honest, but let’s take a look at the clothes first and see.

After abruptly waking everyone up with a blaring industrial techno soundtrack that boomed throughout the venue’s tight vicinity, models stomped down the catwalk in outfits meant to be represent “uniforms of the revolution.” Heritage military outerwear including slouchy officers top coats, boxy parachute parkas, sharply constructed blazers and cropped bombers were by far the token pieces in the range, while the occasional model donned those curious executioner masks styled with infantry and baseball caps.

The mix featured the brand’s trademark street layering and tailored cuts, so nothing really groundbreaking on that front, but some new graphics seeped their way into the collection in the form of flag prints, embellished patches with the seal of WNL (which stood for “We Need Leaders”) and an “Order” slogan emblazoned on a white hoodie. The utilitarian theme continued to materialize via an oversized cargo pocket here and a statement zipper there, but my personal favorite touch was the cinching details included on sleeves and waists.

Muted greys, blues and browns formed the underlying color palette for SS17, but looking back, yellow is the hue that really stood out, which according to Chow, served as “a call to action.” The show concluded with one Breaking Bad executioner spray-painting the words “We Need Leaders,” which, to be frank, was a bit gratuitous. Yes, it’s great for designers to filter their personal strives with society and pop culture into their collections, but only if it’s done authentically.

Personally, and no shade, but I haven’t seen anything in Public School’s track record which alludes to the brand truly making a difference in society apart from making clothes (relatively pricey ones at that), so the whole act of fueling up a politically-charged message at a fashion show came across as rather frivolous. Perhaps they should take a cue from Vivian Westwood, who not only aesthetically represents social causes in her collections, she fights for them. The masks were a nice touch though, I’ll give them that.

Kick off your fashion month by seeing How London’s Fashion Students Are Dressing For the City’s Graduation Week.

Words by Nico Amarca
Fashion Editor, North America