Photography: Kohl Murdock
In Joon Ho Bong’s post-apocalyptic drama Snowpiercer, the world of 2031 is completely frozen, forcing a community of survivors to develop their own hierarchal social system within the confines of a moving train. A corrupt class system, much like what exists today, inevitably grew within this insular population—lower class in the back and upper class in the front—sparking a fire between the oppressed and privileged. This revolution, though set decades from now, is reflective of the current cultural climate, providing a rich, relevant inspiration for rising downtown NYC label PRIVATE POLICY to explore this season.
Founded by Parsons graduates Siying Qu and Haoran Li, the collaborative project is in its second season, this sophomore effort further honing what the two find valuable as designers. They’re constantly looking at youth culture within the city, injecting this energy with a subtle sense of luxury, the balance of high and low echoing Snowpiercer’s narrative. For fall ’16, subversive street elements took root in classic American silhouettes, like bombers or bucket hats, while sly nods to opulence are found in the collection’s fabrics, from wool silks to velvet. This equilibrium is informed by the duo’s eclectic art school background and formal training, providing them with an acute awareness of customer and quality, both of which are essential for a label in its infancy.
We visited PRIVATE POLICY this week in their studio space to shoot some details of the collection and talk about all things collaboration and community.
How did this partnership come about?
Haoran Li: “During our graduating year at Parsons, we were always together because our working tables were next to each other. At the time, she was doing menswear and I was doing womenswear, so it was pretty different. With PRIVATE POLICY, we wanted to make something our friends would wear; our friends want to wear something colorful, something youthful, but it’s very hard to find clothes like that within a reasonable price range.”
Siying Qu: “Our friends represent New York’s creative youth because having gone to art school, we have a lot of communication with other art forms besides fashion, like photography, fine art, music. We hang out downtown and see this market; there are some interesting things to wear, but we feel like we’re not finding enough.”
How do you keep prices “reasonable?”
SQ: “We design backwards, thinking about stores we want to sell in and considering their price point. We’ll then consider what’s reasonable for our customer and think about the fabrics we can afford. We don’t want to compromise quality, either; we’re not trying to do fast fashion. We need quality to attract this creative youth that’s also focused on details.”
HL: “Our fabrics are from Italy and Japan.”
SQ: “Our clothes are made in China, but we specifically chose Shanghai, which is a fast developing city, almost like New York. We found this atelier-like factory that can do small quantities for us, which is very helpful to keep down the price point and maintain quality.”
Who does what in this collaboration?
HL: “Siying specializes in silhouettes and I’m interested in textiles. We’ve been told we’re a unique team because it’s more common to have a designer working with someone more business. Luckily, our brand vision is really singular and both our families are from strong business backgrounds, so we’ve have a business touch even before design.”
Tell me about the collection’s inspiration, Snowpiercer.
HL: “We got all the different color elements from the film. The word, “Takataka,” is a reference to the train is running. With the fur details, we thought about surviving harsh weather. Our silk is shiny, but it still has a wool attached to it—a warm, silky fabric.”
SQ: “The film is about a revolution of people who are on the bottom of this train society and want to get to the front of the train, where there’s all this luxury, high-class life. It felt like a very romantic revolution for us. At the front of the train, we saw pinks, golds and greens, and with the other side of the ‘world,’ more beige and earthy tones. We found this contrast to be beautiful and brought it into the collection.”
I see a strong loungewear presence in this collection, which seems to be taking over fashion. Is this in reference to the film, as well?
SQ: “Loungewear was worn by the leader of the train in this very Italian menswear print. At the same time, it feels very modern, so we wanted to create something that could be worn outside. We do a lot of vintage shopping, not only in New York, but in Austin, and recycled this classic ’50s silhouette to make a lounge shirt with zippers and plackets on the sleeves.”