Public School NYC
Public School are Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow. Both native New Yorkers, they met in 2003 when Chow, a former journalist, was marketing director of Sean John and Osborne was an intern. They launched their own label in 2007; since then their minimal, mainly monochrome streetwear with a high fashion twist has been a retail hit and won them several fashion industry awards, including the first International Woolmark prize for menswear this year. The pair are based in New York’s garment district and as well as running Public School, they were recently appointed creative directors of DKNY.
I don’t remember the first time I met Dao-Yi but it was an easy transition to working with him. We had the same aesthetics, the same references, almost the same groups of friends. He quit Sean John and opened up a clothing store in Miami. He was starting a line for the store and asked me to take part in it. Then around fashion week one year, we were talking about what brands we were excited to wear as consumers and we were stumped. That was the beginning of Public School.
We disagree, who doesn’t? But since we’re coming from the same place, it becomes an argument about who’s putting out the most passion. The louder voice wins. If you really believe in something, then cool, let’s do it. It’s like a relationship: if you’re open and communications are strong, it all gets worked out. I love it when we get hit with a big decision that really lets us put everything on the table – you can talk it all out and cleanse your soul.
When the company was just Dao-Yi and me, we worked on every stitch of every jacket. Now we have a bigger staff and more on our plate. So there might be things I don’t see until the sample stage, but the trust is there.
Dao-Yi’s good at setting things up and he’s an amazing creative writer, good at getting his point across. I learned a lot from him about how to be a manager, how to not sweet-talk someone but be very diplomatic. When we’re pushing the envelope in terms of fit, he’s great. In my head, I’m thinking, ‘Oh shit, will we need to make it again?’ but it always comes out really good.
Outside work, he has a wife and two children, and I’m a single man. I might go out and have some drinks and dinner. But if it’s a barbecue at his house, we’ll hang out.
He hates the way I eat sometimes, but we were in Tokyo recently in a sushi restaurant. It was really quiet and he was taking a sip of wine. He’s not a big drinker and he was going like this [slurps and sighs]. You know when you’ve known someone for so long and it’s like a new thing? Him drinking wine… It was so weird.
I remember meeting him really clearly; he came to drop something off in my office. Max has a really good spirit and it was infectious. I remember saying to myself, “Ah, that kid’s got good energy… and what the hell is he wearing in the back of his pocket?” It was a tie.
When we first started, we did pretty much everything together – design, branding, we shipped our first two seasons by ourselves from a friend’s warehouse. Now as the business has got more complex, we’ve learned to divvy up our roles. Max oversees men’s, I oversee women’s, then we’ll collaborate on everything else, from marketing to sales strategy.
Most of our disagreements come because of the difference in age and lifestyle – I think that impacts us most in terms of where we are in our lives, what we want, and our responsibilities outside the business. Ultimately, because we’re seen as a unit, we affect each other’s outcome, so all those decisions you make together, it’s like being married. It gets heated but we both know that the intent is always coming from a good place. You never have to worry about a hidden agenda. Going into business with your friends is probably not the best idea. It weighs on a relationship for sure, but we figure it out. I smacked him once with spit in my hand – he didn’t enjoy that.
Max is good at making people feel included and welcome – something in my old age I probably could do more of. There’s a good yin and yang. Max is calm; I let my emotions get the best of me. I’m more proud than Max is. Sometimes we’ll make decisions based on whether we’ve been fairly treated by someone outside the company; Max will try to see it from their point of view or he’ll be a little hesitant to pull the plug just yet – he’d rather figure it out. I’m more impetuous.
I think Max is good at the finer details, like an idea for a pocket shape or a flange on an armhole, which is his favourite detail of all time. He can look at a little thing and make it feel like a big thing.
Joe and Charlie Casely-Hayford are the father and son behind the Casely-Hayfordmenswear label, launched in 2009. Joe has worked in fashion since the 1980s, on his own label, on stagewear for musicians including the Clash and U2, and as creative director for Gieves & Hawkes. Charlie, who joined the family business after finishing his studies, has also styled musicians such as Nas and the xx.
When Charlie was growing up, I recall actively discouraging him from coming into fashion. It’s a notoriously hard industry and I didn’t want this for my children. But now he works with me, and my daughter is editor of a fashion magazine – the best way to get your kids to do something is definitely by telling them not to do it. Charlie did a foundation course at Central Saint Martins, before studying history of art at the Courtauld Institute. While there, he showed an increasing interest in my work – I was consulting at Gieves & Hawkes and had started work on launching the Casely-Hayford brand. He would often offer his opinion. I remember the pivotal moment: he called in sick at the Courtauld and came out to Tokyo on a work trip with me, and we have not looked back since.
It’s hard to stop being Charlie’s father and become his business partner, though fashion is unique in that it’s accepted that young ideas can carry more weight than they would in other industries. Sometimes I will propose a random fabric that my experience and intuition tell me will work. This process has been known to give Charlie palpitations – until the orders start coming in.
The success of our partnership is in that, though our inspirations are similar, we bring different things to the table. There’s a unique level of understanding between us. We believe that at Casely-Hayford we have created our own sartorial language which reflects our very particular vision and history. This would not have been possible in a regular working relationship.
Charlie is very considered in his approach. I like the way he thinks about a long-term strategy. Timekeeping isn’t a strong point, but he is very kind and respectful to others. Running a family business is a 24/7 affair. My wife forms the third part of the triumvirate and she’s definitely the boss.
I’ve been surrounded by fashion since I can remember. It was such a constant in my life that over time I think I became oblivious to it. Until I was in my late teens, the art world was all I wanted to do. It took an outside source to my family, in the shape of studying at Saint Martins, to make me see what was in front of me. It was then that I began to think about clothing in terms of identity and perception.
I moved out of my parents’ house as soon as we started working together. It’s important for us that there is some separation between work and home, otherwise it becomes unhealthy.
I don’t feel we disagree at work, really, more that we often bring in disparate elements, then convey to the other why they feel relevant. It’s a process that provides constant exchange, often through experiencing the same things differently. And anyway, my mum is the boss. End of. She is the rock behind our business.
My path into fashion was pretty old school – I apprenticed under my father in a very traditional way. That was the best education. My admiration for him is limitless. When I look through his archive, I can’t help but feel he has been relevant in different guises in every decade of his career. He has such willingness to be open to change and adapt with the times. That’s something I really admire, particularly in an industry built on transiency.
My dad understands me more than I know myself, and in many ways is more of a youthful spirit than I am in his approach to engaging with culture and translating that into design.
Luxury jewellery label Loquet London launched in 2013, with a modern take on old-fashioned lockets. It is a collaboration between writer and environmentalist Sheherazade Goldsmith and model Laura Bailey. The label specialises in bespoke lockets personalised with charms and birthstones. From its beginnings as a London-based concept jeweller’s, it has rapidly expanded and its creations are now sold in countries from Japan to the UAE and the US.
Our paths have been crisscrossing since we were about 18, but it wasn’t until our late 20s that Laura and I became really close, finding we had more and more in common, and starting to spend more time together.
It’s lovely to have a friend like Laura. She is so warm, so vivacious – and such a feminist, always on your side, standing up for what you need.
I had been writing columns for various newspapers for 10 years but was on a sabbatical when I came up with the idea for Loquet London. My son bought me a little Perspex container with dried flowers in it, at a funfair. I wore it all the time, because he had given it to me, and thought about how nice it would be if you could open and close it and personalise it. Of course, lockets have been around for centuries – in Victorian times they contained teeth and hair and all kinds of scary things – and they have stood the test of time. My idea was to give them a contemporary twist. I ran the idea past Laura and she loved it so much that we decided to partner up.
I didn’t know very much about fashion but Laura knows the industry well – she diversified out of modelling to have a fascinating career. We design the pieces together, but whereas I work on Loquet every single day of my life – from the wholesale distribution to the website – Laura’s role is to oversee, for example, styling the look books, knowing which photographers will be brilliant and how to make it look interesting. I trust her views and I trust her to make decisions, and she trusts me. Aesthetically, our tastes are very similar.
Of course, I worried about the impact that working together might have on our friendship, but actually, being friends offers huge advantages. We’re both very busy and have the same priorities in our lives; that understanding allowed us to build the business very quickly. The hardest thing is to remember to find time for a chat over a glass of wine – to consciously be together and talk about life, not business.
Our relationship was a slow flirtation. We had been in each other’s orbit for a while through mutual friends. I remember being so in awe of the fact that this slip of a girl could be the mother of three young children, alongside her writing and everything else she did. Something clicked around the time I was pregnant with my son and our lives came into sync. Now we are great friends and so are our kids.
We were at dinner one night two years ago with a mutual friend, Thandie Newton, when Sheherazade told me about Loquet. Initially, I said, “Use me as a sounding board if you want to explore this”, without any business ambitions of my own, but gradually the idea of working together collected between us. Things went very fast. I was so impressed by her research and ambition – a few weeks later she had a business plan; a whole world dreamed up.
It was nerve-racking going into business with a friend, but we have always been very open and honest about our other commitments, which is one of the reasons it works. We are not over-promised to each other. I have a very freelance, on-the-road life, so we knew our time together would have to be disciplined, but I’m used to that. There are many conversations, going way into the night, by Skype and email.
What’s brilliant about working with a friend is that we have an emotional shorthand and an understanding of the way each other works. It has been important to know to disagree and bash things out without conflict, through open communication. Both our lives are very full, we don’t have time to let things stew. Our friendship is more important than the business; we are really protective of it. There are times when we have so much to catch up on in “real life” but there are deadlines looming and we have to leave that aside and get on with the work. That’s a discipline we have had to learn. But it works. It’s a smooth ride.
Justin O’Shea and Veronika Heilbrunner
Justin O’ Shea is buying director of mytheresa and Veronika Heilbrunner is a fashion editor, founder of hey-woman and star of the latest Sportmax campaign. They met in an Acne Studios showroom in Copenhagen in 2010 and became a couple three years later. Since then they have worked together at mytheresa and become the street style darling duo of the fashion show circuit. It’s an industry fame neither sought out but both embrace with cheerful reluctance. Though they no longer work together, they remain the first couple of fashion week.
Justin O’ Shea
I remember looking around the corner and I saw a tall, beautiful German girl standing there wearing a black leather jacket, white T-shirt, high-waisted Levi’s denim shorts and a pair of Acne pistol boots. I was hungover, so I had the confidence to go over to her. I was like, “Do you want to go to the pub?” and she agreed and we sat drinking beer until 9pm. She had a boyfriend so we didn’t get together immediately.
I believe that I have the better taste. I think it will sound super cocky but I think she would say the same. When we first met she wanted to wear the most colourful, craziest stuff, but I’m not into looking like a circus. I was like, “You are six foot one and a half, you are beautiful, you don’t need anything else except for just you. You’re enough.” Maybe it was all the compliments I gave her when she dressed more simply that have had an effect.
There hasn’t been a lot for her to influence – not because I don’t listen to her, but because I don’t change much. She was with me when I shaved off my beard. I basically didn’t exist before the beard – I was driving trucks back home in Australia before I worked in fashion. I didn’t want to get rid of it on principle because everyone else was growing one and I didn’t want to I look like I’d been trying to be trendy. When I shaved it off, I couldn’t look in the mirror and I went over to Veronika and she was really happy. She likes that she can see my expressions. She was like, “I always just felt you were really unhappy! “
At first with the street style pictures, I didn’t like having my girlfriend and private life in public, but the photographers are so nice, they made it fun. My favourite picture of us is outside a Valentino show and we are dancing, being stupid, Veronika is really smiling and very happy. I find a lot of street style very wanky when it’s all posey-posey. People might think we are a posey couple but it’s just not really like that. It’s more real. I don’t want to be serious fashion people, that wasn’t ever the point – it’s just that you have to get from A to B and all the photographers are in the way, so…
The day we met we spent the whole day in a pub which was very funny. It’s not what I usually do. He wasn’t in his suit phase yet, so he was wearing black jeans and a black T-shirt with a shaved head and a two-week beard. He didn’t look how you would imagine a fashion buyer would dress. He looked pretty badass. That’s his thing – he is very charming, with good manners, but he didn’t look like that and I found him super interesting.
In the beginning it was easier for me with the street style photographers. I would smile and find it funny. He was stiff and looked unhappy, but he learned quickly; now he finds it funny, too.
I haven’t changed my overall look since I met Justin but thanks to him my look is more refined. You can end up wanting it all when you work in fashion but he helped me work out that simpler is better for me. Ages ago I was wearing a beautiful white Valentino dress to the shows. I was on the Metro and I was wearing sneakers for speed with high-heeled pumps in my bag. I wanted to change before the show and Justin told me it looked cooler with trainers. I was like, “Really? It’s Valentino.” He was like, “No, no, trust me, it looks cooler.” From then on I always wore them. I really trust him.
I don’t think I influence the way he dresses. I really liked him with a beard, but I was curious to see him without because I couldn’t really remember how he looked before. I prefer him without it now. I personally like him in jeans and a T-shirt – he looks younger and more casual. He sometimes asks me which of those eight ties he should wear and then wears another one. When I didn’t know him so well, I bought him a vintage Hermès tie but it was a boy’s tie, not a man’s. It was pretty embarrassing. I know the difference now.
Justin is very decisive and quick with everything, I spend time thinking and often change my mind, but he is done in a second. When we worked together he was very direct and straightforward, and that worked really well. That’s also how it is in private life with Justin.