We Need Leaders: The Designers of Public School NY Pay It Forward With a Digital Sale and Gordon Parks-Themed T-Shirt Collection

Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne attend the CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund 15th Anniversary Event at Brooklyn Navy Yard on November 5, 2018, in Brooklyn, NY.
Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne attend the CFDA / Vogue Fashion Fund 15th Anniversary Event at Brooklyn Navy Yard on November 5, 2018, in Brooklyn, NY.
Photo: Roy Rochlin (Getty Images)

Finally, a Public School we’re actually excited about returning to! Public School NY designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow have come up with two fashionable new ways to support some incredible initiatives—with no social distancing required. As reported by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), the duo is part of the founding team behind BestKeptSecret, “a first-of-its-kind, five-day digital flash sale that curates highly sought-after premium and luxury American brands at sample sale prices”—and in case you’re wondering, that’s up to 80 percent off of retail.


Taking place from Tuesday, August 11 through Saturday, August 15, the “sale for change” aims to create a win-win for designers and shoppers and an even bigger win for two very worthy charities. Faced with an inventory overflow due to the outbreak of COVID-19, over 40 brands are selling off their excess merchandise in hopes of raising over $1 million for Baby2Baby, a Los Angeles-based organization providing basic essentials and clothing to newborns to 12-year-olds living in poverty, and the Colin Kaepernick-founded Know Your Rights Camp, which provides much-needed education and legal resources.

Though conventional wisdom and a flagging economy would suggest spending is the last thing we should be doing right now (especially with no further stimulus checks scheduled), BestKeptSecret claims its additional goal is “to promote conscious consumer spending.” At the very least, this is some self-indulgence that benefits others, so there’s that. And if you want to beat the crowds, a $25 donation will get you first dibs.

Who all gon’ be there? As the CFDA reports:

Confirmed participants include CFDA designers and member brands alice & olivia, Fleur Du Mal, FRAME Denim, Jason Wu, Jonathan Simkhai, Mansur Gavriel, Nili Lotan, Public School, R13, rag & bone, Rosetta Getty, Rosie Assoulin, Simon Miller, Tanya Taylor, and Veronica Beard.

The list of participating brands grows daily and is also including affiliate brands and friends of the CFDA Cinq a Sept, Helmut Lang, STAUD, Studio 189, and Theory, among others.

But wait—there’s more: Via Public School NY, Osborne and Chow are also launching a Gordon Parks-themed T-shirt collection called “We Need Leaders,” “which serves as a call to action for the restructuring of systemic issues in law enforcement and criminal justice,” says the CFDA, which also reports:

The designs feature one of three images by Gordon Parks, the American photographer, musician, writer and film director who became prominent in U.S. documentary photojournalism chronicling issues of civil rights, poverty, and Black Americans.

The images include a self-portrait of Parks, and rarely seen photographs of Malcolm X and Black Panther activists. One of the designs will feature Parks’ own words from his best-remembered 1968 Life magazine story about a Harlem family: “What I want, what I am, what you force me to be is what you are.”


Neither freedom nor these limited-edition tees come cheap. They are currently available for presale on Public School’s site for $75, due to ship on September 1. That said, 100 percent of net proceeds “will go towards providing scholarships, prizes and fellowships for the Gordon Parks Arts & Social Justice Fund.”


And there’s an environmentally-conscious component, as well, since Parks’ photographs are printed on Version Tomorrow’s sustainable 60 percent recycled cotton/40 organic cotton, 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable short-sleeve tee using water-based inks.

“We couldn’t be more proud to launch this series of tees featuring rarely seen photographs from the archives of the great Gordon Parks,” the duo captioned a post on Instagram, featuring the famed and pioneering photographer in a solemn self-portrait. “The fact that his documentation of Black life, the racial divide, poverty, and social inequality in the US is as relevant today as it was 60 years ago is a sad one. It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the struggle continues to haunt the legacy of this country. We selected Parks’ photographs of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers specifically because we have to fight for any and all justice, and that without justice there can no peace.”


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Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?