Interview: Private Policy
The plight of enslaved South East Asian fishermen, the struggles of globalisation, Hitler – not the most straightforward themes for fashion shows, but that hasn’t stopped New York brand Private Policy taking them on. Started in 2015 by Parsons School of Design grads Siying Qu and Haoran Li – who have interned for the likes of Alexander Wang, Calvin Klein and Jason Wu – the label’s political consciousness and streetwise, thoughtful clothing is winning fans, plus stockists including Opening Ceremony and Farfetch.
What made you want to comment on social issues with your brand?
We’re both interested in how the political environment affects how people live today, so we thought why don’t we actually build a brand around this and use fashion to start the conversation? As fashion is so visual and joyful, it’s a way to reach the youth, the fashion community and people who are overlooking these issues, and allow them to take them in.
Can you talk us through your design process?
We approach each collection like creating a news report. We research the topic and get different points of view from within our communities. Then we translate all these discoveries into our clothing. The most complete form of storytelling takes place at the show, and then talking to press continues the process. Instead of what happens traditionally in fashion where you pick a theme, tell a story and that’s the end of it, for us that’s just the beginning.
Why did you choose money as the theme for your AW19 collection?
We wanted to explore money’s true value within our society. We put shredded American dollars worth up to 10k into vests and harnesses covered in clear vinyl. We were trying to get people to think what does this dollar bill, this piece of linen and cotton, mean to you when shredded? What’s the value of it now? We also had our ‘banker’ looks – overcoats and trousers made from our signature metallic shine fabrics that we’ve used since the beginning of our brand. We made the idea of a banker more youthful, to make people feel like you can be or dress like a banker but it doesn’t mean that you have to share values or behave in similar ways.
What was it like working with Toni&Guy on the hair for your show?
It was great, because the Toni&Guy team are not afraid of crazy ideas, but at the same time they’re very into detail. We had three different hair textures in the show – fishnet over the hair, a matte natural texture and a shiny texture. It’s great for a team to support your vision, especially for a show that’s challenging.
What has it been like showing in London for the past two seasons?
We’ve been fortunate to show in London thanks to amazing sponsorship from GQ China. We actually drew on London style for our SS19 collection, taking our own DNA – the downtown New York youth scene, club scene, street-style scene – and mixing that with the London punk thing.
How would you characterise that New York style, or DNA as you put it, that runs through your collections?
We reflect the sociopolitical attention that New Yorkers give – New York has always been active in that sense. And in terms of our clothing, we want people to feel confident, comfortable and have a free spirit that we think is really New York. At the same time, we grew up in Asia, so that will always be in our blood, and in our designs. We love balance, we like the whole collection to feel harmonious, which is a very Asian philosophy. Plus we sometimes introduce softer silhouettes, with no shoulder seams – blending influences from ancient Asian clothing with western pattern making and tailoring.
You also took on representation of Asians with that SS19 collection.
We wanted to show a rebellious image of Asian youth, reflecting what’s happening now with Asian kids going clubbing and enjoying themselves, but also reflecting the culture-blending of today. We wanted people to ask, who are Asians today? Are they still the stereotypes that a lot of films and TV shows portray?
Why is it important for you for the brand to be genderless?
Our name means make your own rules – a Private Policy is your own policy. We don’t want our clothes to put you in a box, but help you express yourself. We’re ready to break boundaries within gender, within different cultures, and most importantly between fashion and the world.
What are your plans for the future?
We plan to collaborate with more artists for our next collection, and run more events with local communities in different cities. We’re also opening an online shop, and next season we’re going to Florence for Pitti Uomo as part of their Chinese year. It’s exciting.