Public Enemy Number One

With all that’s going on in the news with police brutality, a series of jailhouse lineups, each containing five live mannequins in coordinating outfits (blue hues in one cell, optic white in another, and so on), might not seem like an obvious staging for an otherwise celebratory occasion. But for Maxwell Osborne and Dao Yi Chow, the ultra-hip designers behind cool kid label Public School, it seemed like more of an apt opportunity to find beauty in darkness.

Upon entering the Skylight Clarkson warehouse turned NYFW: Men’s epicenter near Manhattan’s West Side Highway, fashion’s spectators were immediately transported to what could have been a scene from Law & Order: SVU. So there they were, pretty people in otherwise grimy situations and the effect was sensational.

In between sirens, screams, and samplings of Nina Simone and Gil Scott-Heron, an authority barked orders for each suspect to present himself. It just so happened that George Lewis, Jr., aka Twin Shawdow, who arranged the show’s score, was one of the windowpane check-clad members in question. While the musician has collaborated with Public School before, it was his first time modeling for the brand.

“There’s a lot of back and fourth to get a final score that we all feel is right,” Lewis, J. explained before the show. “The most obvious and important difference is that it’s not about me. It’s about Max and Dao’s vision coming through. I just want to help solidify the picture.”

Across the room from the cell of sublimely chic male and female inmates dressed in angelic white separates, stood another unsuspected, if not perpetually chic, offender in the form of Waris Ahluwalia. He was among a group of street gents in navy silk suit separates and farmer’s plaid, his ever-present turban and beard glowing as brightly as his grill. His cellmate, the model Adonis Bosso, cut a convincing figure with the assistance of his septum piercing and sinister grin, but then again, they were all too chic to be guilty. Or was being too chic their crime? 

In the next holding pin, the chiseled and freckled model Rockwell, showcased his acting chops, too, in an all-black-everything ensemble plus requisite baseball cap. The newness here was his otherwise casual windbreaker worn on top of a neat cloak. And then the culprit showed himself the chicest, and therefore the guiltiest of them all: Nick Wooster, Public Enemy Number One.

Perhaps it was the silver mane, the height difference (he stood at least a foot and a half shorter than the others), or the new take on culottes for men paired with the new shark tooth-soled Generic Man trainers. We’ll never know, but if ever there were a model citizen we’d be tempted to emulate, it’d certainly be Wooster in Public School’s expertly cut layers of noir.