How Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow Changed DKNY

Public School: the New York City brand with a distinctive streetwear-meets-high-fashion aesthetic and collections that are almost entirely monochrome. It’s effortlessly cool, incredibly modern and has a cult following that has made the brand one of the city’s most respected in its eight years since inception. The duo behind it – and the reason it has been such a success – are New York natives Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow, who are inherently Public School.

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It came as a slight surprise, then, when it was announced they would take over as creative directors of DKNY, the younger label to Donna Karan New York. They were designers who didn’t cater for the mainstream and here they were taking the reins of an established fashion house that was far removed from Public School’s style.

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Donna Karan knew what she was doing when she passed the creative responsibility onto these two though. DKNY was one of those brands that always ticked along nicely, bringing out good collections but rarely did it make the editors’ must-watch list or ignite excitement among the fashion industry or the forward-thinking consumer. It needed reawakening, revitalising and renewing. It needed to speak to the contemporary consumer and become the label on people’s lips again – and that’s exactly what Chow and Osborne have achieved.

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For AW16 it was about oversized streetwear (hand-covering puffer jackets and trailing overalls) with an injection of ’90s grunge (slinky slip dresses worn with stompy, lace-up boots) and a new take on the logomania that took over that decade; a nice homage to DKNY’s formative years. SS17, meanwhile, is all about a futuristic take on urban clothing – think brightly coloured jumpers, hooded knitted dresses and sheer anoraks.

At the beginning of December 2016, the duo stepped down from the brand – but not without leaving what will (hopefully) be a longstanding legacy.

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Words by Angharad Jones. Images property of DKNY

Sarah Atkinson

Sarah Atkinson

Writer and expert