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Is menswear the new route to the top jobs in fashion?

Is a career in menswear the new route to a top job in fashion? The appointment of two new creative directors at DKNY – Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, the duo behind streetwear-inspired, multi-award-winning label Public School – could suggest as much.

Chow and Osborne met while working for Sean Combs’ clothing label Sean John, and founded their company in 2008. They have since won a raft of awards, including the CFDA/Vogue fashion fund and, this year, the International Woolmark prize. Though Public School’s roots are in menswear, the brand has been presenting womenswear looks in its menswear shows for the past few seasons, with oversized beanies and boxy, masculine cuts featuring heavily. In 2013, New York magazine described the company as “New York’s coolest new label”.

Cara Delevingne doing DKNY womenswear.

Donna Karan launched her diffusion line, DKNY, in 1998, with celebrity ambassadors including Rita Ora and Cara Delevingne recently appearing in campaigns aiming to woo younger consumers. As well as womenswear, Delevingne has starred in advertisements for the brand’s menswear line, wearing a shirt, tie and two-piece suit with trainers in recent campaign images, in line with a wider unisex trend that has lately captured fashion’s imagination.

Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow of Public School. Photograph: Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

It is fitting, then, that Chow and Osborne have such an excellent menswear pedigree. By starting in menswear but graduating to a top job, overseeing womenswear and menswear, they follow the likes of Raf Simons, the current creative director at Dior, and Hedi Slimane, now overseeing one of fashion’s most commercially successful labels, Saint Laurent. Once seen as the poor relation in the fashion industry, menswear is booming at the moment, reportedly growing 1.5 times faster than the women’s market.

Chow and Osborne describe the brand as “iconic”, and call Karan “a true inspiration. We both grew up in New York, and DKNY has always been part of the landscape of this city in our formative years as designers and New Yorkers. It is one of the brands that helped change the game for us and for American fashion.”

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