From Proenza Schouler to Opening Ceremony, design duos who met during their college years have made a major mark on fashion.
And Haoran Li and Siying Qu hope they can one day be added to that list.
The creative directors of New York-based Private Policy met at The New School’s Parsons School of Design and “worked shoulder-to-shoulder during the stress of senior year,” said Qu, as they sweated over their final design projects.
The China natives who had come to New York to realize their fashion dreams “laughed and joked” and helped each other make it through to graduation. “That’s when we realized we can work together. So we decided to start a brand.”
After graduating in May 2015, they merged his talents in women’s wear and hers in men’s wear to create Private Policy.
They decided to concentrate on men’s — although a lot of the looks are unisex — and created a small capsule for spring 2016, which launched during New York Fashion Week that September. “We thought we should start right away,” Li said.
From the beginning, Private Policy has sought to offer more than the latest interpretation of the season’s trends. The collections deliver a loud societal message and a call to action for its target customers.
The fall line, for example, took its inspiration from the movie “Snowpiercer,” which follows a train that contains the last survivors of humanity after global warming. The struggle between the rich and the poor is evident by the clothes each class wears and the duo translated this into a collection of modernized basics in luxury fabrics, some emblazoned with word “takakaka” to mimic the sound of the train.
The storytelling continued for spring when the duo was inspired by a news story about slave labor in the South Asian fishing industry.
The feeling of imprisonment was translated into a series of bondage elements that were seen throughout the line in details such as harness ties and gathers. Other extreme elements included plastic aprons worn over pants made out of trash bags with a hazardous waste print on them.
While the message was dark, there were still youthful elements such as silk bombers with matching pants.
Qu said the brand is targeted to “young people like us, either in age or spirit.” And Li acknowledges that many of these customers are “friends with a rebellious heart.”
Qu added: “We look for inspiration in what’s going on in the world. We look outside of fashion. But fashion is the best way to express how we feel. We use fashion as a medium to raise awareness.”
They rarely design in a studio, but draw inspiration from the street, their friends or their favorite vintage store, Search & Destroy.
Fall was the first line offered for sale and the collection is carried in several specialty stores around the world. They also have their own e-commerce site.
Shirts retail for $100 to $475, pants from $410 to $535 and outerwear from $665 to $1,240.
And while their distribution is still small, Private Policy is slowly getting more exposure. Qu and Li showed at New York Men’s Day in July, were featured in a special section at the Project trade show and will also show in September as part of the Who’s Next trade show in Paris as they work to make a name for themselves in fashion.