The two companies are joining forces to launch a zero-waste, limited-edition collection.
Public School, which launched in 2008, is bringing its streetwear aesthetic to Fisher’s circular design program. Inspired by a tour of Fisher’s Tiny Factory in Irvington, N.Y., Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, codesigners of Public School, took over the space with the Renew design team, using damaged garments from the take-back program as raw material for their own designs. The zero-waste Public School x Eileen Fisher collection is composed of three ready-to-wear designs that are “resewn” and one hat: all pieces are one of a kind.
The looks consist of a color-blocked silk top for $378, resewn from five blouses; a color-blocked merino sweater with cut-out sleeves for $428, resewn from four sweaters; wide-leg denim pants with snaps down the side for $478, resewn from seven pants, and felted logo hat for $125, felted from recycled garments that can’t be made into new product.
The Public School x Eileen Fisher collection launches exclusively at the Making Space store in Brooklyn on Thursday, in its own corner space, decorated with large green and yellow bags of recycled clothing. A customized TV screen showing Chow and Osborne creating clothing in the Tiny Factory hangs on the wall. The felted hat will also be featured on publicschoolnyc.com.
There are some 150 pieces, several of each style, but when it sells out, there will be no replenishment of these styles.
“It was fun to work with designers that wouldn’t traditionally be associated with our brand,” said Eileen Fisher, founder of the firm bearing her name. “As the collaboration started to play out, we noticed there were a lot of synergies — like our mutual commitment to ease in clothing. It’s exciting to work with young designers and see their translation of our design aesthetic.”
“This is one of the most important collaborations we’ve worked on in terms of providing visibility and awareness around a critical issue — sustainability within our industry,” said Chow. “This is the first step for our brand toward implementing sustainable standards into our own practices. Eileen has been such an amazing leader in the sustainable space so we’re really fortunate to be able to work and learn from her and her team,” added Osborne.
The Renew program has been a focal point of circular design for Fisher. The company has taken back more than one million garments and is pioneering a design process to deconstruct these pieces and reimagine them into new designs. The company receives 4,000 to 6,000 pieces of clothing a week at its Irvington location. Public School saw an opportunity to put their own spin on the project using their creative voice.
“The next generation of designers are the future of the industry,” said Fisher. “I find it encouraging that influential voices like Dao-Yi and Maxwell are integrating sustainability practices into their design process and considering the impact their choices will have. They are designing with the purpose of creating a better industry. Through this experience, it is clear that there is synergy between our two brands to design garments that are effortless. It was energizing to see their design take on our brand concept and bring something unexpected to the table.”
Asked if she would like to see more designers get involved in the Renew project, Fisher told WWD, “We are always looking for ways to spread the word on sustainability and to be a resource for other brands and designers that are looking to implement these efforts into their processes. For us, Renew is how circular design comes to fruition within our company. We are aware that our take-back program may not be the right fit for everyone; we simply want others to get inspired and see that this work can be incredibly creative. With the apparel industry being one of the largest polluters in the world, we see it as our responsibility and opportunity to design a solution. We hope Renew can pave the way.”
Fisher believes that having Public School as a collaborator lends a cool factor to the movement. “They bring a new aesthetic to the conversation, which means circular design and sustainability reach a new audience. I also love that they are making sustainability cool and bringing new excitement to this movement. We are excited to see where this can lead. We want more of the industry getting behind sustainability practices and creating beautiful things can can make a difference,” she said.
Chow said the designers knew they wanted to collaborate with Fisher after they heard her speak at a conference. “We saw Eileen speaking at the Copenhagen Fashion summit about her efforts in sustainability and knew right away we wanted to work with her. We took a visit to her Tiny Factory upstate in Irvington and we were blown away by their operation. She’s a leader in circular space and has been developing and implementing best practices to address the fashion industry’s carbon footprint. She’s been super generous in sharing her work with other designers and companies,” he said.
“We enjoyed exploring the Tiny Factory and learning about Eileen Fisher’s process. We enjoy being part of the dialogue in terms of sustainable clothing. It takes a village and no one company will do it by themselves. It was a great creative challenge to create upcycled clothing without making them look or feel like they were upcycled,” added Osborne.
Chow noted that the collaboration is one drop for now. When asked whether they’re considering re-entering the women’s business, they declined to comment.
Discussing the importance of circular design to them, Chow said, “Everything in our collaboration collection is constructed from pre-owned EF garments that have been collected back from her customers. No new fabrics, trim or materials were sourced or used. She’s collected over a million pieces back from her customers since 2009, which was amazing to see.”
Last December, Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne made the decision to exit the wholesale market and go direct-to-consumer. The pioneering streetwear brand is now men’s only, which was the way it started, although the designers have said women’s is on the agenda. Over the years, the designers have partnered with such firms as Nike Inc., Moët Chandon, J. Crew and Fitbit and served as co-creative directors for DKNY. They’ve won everything from the CFDA’s inaugural Fashion Incubator in 2010 to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund in 2013, the Swarovski award in 2014 and the Woolmark award in 2015.
The men’s collection that Public School showed last February centered around a lot of the brand’s greatest hits that were created from recycled, upcycled or dead stock materials in partnership with like-minded brands such as Eileen Fisher and Levi’s. The collection included a super-sharp black suit with built-in cargo pockets and statement zippers and a short-sleeved jumpsuit that reflected the brand’s expertise in designing sartorial streetwear.
In other news, Public School has also collaborated with New Era on a line called “PSNY x The League,” which features 10 cap styles acknowledging 10 NBA teams, including the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls. The hats will retail for $75 and will be available at publicschoolnyc.com and at the PSNY retail space at 3 Howard Street in New York. PSNY will also offer a limited-edition, upcycled sweatshirt made from vintage dealers, at their 3 Howard Street location.