The future of streetwear is sustainable.
On Thursday, fashion brands Public School and Eileen Fisher launched a four-style collaboration at Eileen Fisher’s Brooklyn-based Making Space concept store. The zero-waste collection, sold exclusively at the store, was made at Eileen Fisher’s Irvington, New York-based Tiny Factory, using pieces obtained through the company’s take-back program.
“This collaboration came about just by us being students, looking up to our teacher and wanting to learn more,” said Maxwell Osborne, Public School’s co-founder and co-designer, during a collection launch event at Making Space Wednesday evening. He and business partner Dao-Yi Chow, known for streetwear-leaning collections, saw Fisher speak about sustainability at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, inspiring several visits to Tiny Factory to see how it works and spurring Fisher to seek out a partnership.
“We’ve been working on sustainability almost since the beginning of our brand — it’s just so embedded in what we do,” said Fisher. “And we just know that we can’t do this alone. if we can teach these young people what we’re doing, and they can take that out there and teach others, that’s how we’re going to change the world.”
The collection includes a silk blouse, a V-neck sweater, a pair of jeans and a logo cap (the cap is also sold on publicschoolnyc.com), and is limited edition, with fewer than 150 pieces of each style (priced $125 to $478) available. Osborne said he and Chow worked closely with Fisher to determine the silhouettes that would fit both brands’ aesthetics.
That the collection is so limited is not a play on streetwear’s selling model, but rather a necessity based on available materials. “We used whatever they had and made as much as we could,” said Chow.
The 30-year-old Eileen Fisher brand — which reportedly sees an annual revenue of $400 million to $500 million — has long been a sustainability leader among fashion brands, bringing more than 1 million garments into its circular production and maintaining strict standards for environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Tiny Factory is Eileen Fisher’s production facility dedicated to recycling used clothes into new styles for house labels like Remade and Renew. Hosting the Public School team and facilitating the production of the collaboration was not the first time it’s opened its doors to young designers.
Heron Preston, the streetwear designer making his runway debut in early 2017, participated in a week-long apprenticeship with the Tiny Factory team in December, after reading comments from Eileen Fisher about fashion’s harm to the environment and reaching out with questions on cleaning up his own production. Between completing intern-level tasks like sorting fabric and working one-on-one with Fisher on design concepts, Preston learned, for example, ways to recycle fabric and tweaks for a more sustainable supply chain. His goal was to walk away with the knowledge needed to infuse more environmentally friendly practices throughout his company.
“The streetwear industry isn’t as focused on sustainability at the moment as some other sectors of the fashion industry,” Preston told Glossy in February. “But designers and brands are being forced to innovate and become more sustainable because their fan base is starting to demand it.”
CFDA award-winning designers Chow and Osborne, who started Public School 10 years ago, have had a busy couple years, wrapping a year-long stint as designers at DKNY in late 2016, and announcing a shift to a menswear-specific line and direct-to-consumer model in December while pulling out of New York Fashion Week. They’ve since taken part in several collaborations, including with New Era and scooter company Xiaomi this month alone.
With Eileen Fisher, they went in with some sustainability experience, having debuted an upcycled menswear collection in collaboration with brands including Nike, Levi’s and Alpha Industries in July.
“We want to keep waving the flag of sustainability and to show that sustainable, upcycled clothes don’t have to be boring,” said Osborne.