“Do you mind taking your shoes off?” Maxwell Osborne asks politely as we enter his Gramercy triplex. We’ve just woken him up. He's wearing a white, house robe and seems startled. Our discarded boots join the heap of sneakers by the door. “I’d offer you something to drink," he says. "But all I have is Naked Juice and liquor.”
Osborne is one half of the 2013 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund-winning label Public School – alongside Dao-Yi Chow. The duo also took home the Swarovski Menswear Award early last summer. Meaning Maxwell is having about as good a year as a 31-year-old clothing designer can possibly have. Public School is best described as fashion-forward clothing that manages not to leave the everyman completely bewildered. There are athletic references (varsity jackets, baggy shorts). Then there are runway-inspired pieces. For every leather vest there is a tailored blazer or cardigan. Maxwell, too, is a bit of a hybrid – clearly driven, but prone to bouts of chaos. And given the year he's had, Maxwell can be forgiven for a little revelry. Like say, the previous evening's activities.
“A few friends surprised me last night – they came over with a bottle of whiskey to watch the Knicks game [having grown up in Brooklyn, Maxwell is a huge New York sports fan]. Then some girls came by, and I don’t remember much until you guys rang the buzzer.” Maxwell shakes his head. He sips a Naked Green Machine and admires the view from the window. After a night of drinking, the juice is his staple, followed by lots of water and coffee. “I have fluids stashed everywhere around the house,” he says as he picks up a few empty Smart Water bottles.
“I usually wake up around 7:00 a.m., stretch, take my morning piss, check my phone, put New York 1 on the television, shower and get to work. Gonna have to take things slow today, though.” It’s 8:30. Maxwell returns from the kitchen with a jug of tap water. He crouches down onto the floor and begins watering his Christmas tree. He seems annoyed. “The tree guy hustled me,” he says deadpan. “This one isn’t fresh.” He gets up, and we follow him to his bedroom, where at least 25 black T-shirts are slung over the closet door – still in plastic from the dry cleaner. “I just did laundry.” Maxwell smiles. He wears a daily, monochromatic "uniform" that consists of some of his own designs paired with his signature – a pair of dark sunglasses. Always. “I don’t even have regular glasses, just prescription sunglasses.” Ten or more previously worn pairs line the top of the cabinet in his bedroom, collecting a light dust. Maxwell brushes his teeth in the shower, as Twin Shadow’s “Golden Light” plays loudly from a mini-speaker on the sink. Kiehl's Nashi Blossom & Pink Grapefruit fragrance sits on the sink.
Maxwell gets dressed and comes downstairs with a pair of crisp, white hi-top sneakers. We take the elevator to the lobby and walk outside. Snow is falling gently. It’s quiet. He pulls on his hood. “Man, I love snowy mornings in New York… nothing like 'em. I bet the crime rate goes down on days like this.” Instead of opting for his usual espresso at Eataly (“it’ll be out-of-control busy”), Maxwell takes us to a quaint Cuban spot on 23rd street, where he orders a café con leche. “Hi Mami.” He greets the woman behind the counter with a smile. She knows him. After a few sips, Maxwell seems to come alive. He jokes: “the aspirin I took hasn’t quite kicked in.” We follow him to the subway. As we say goodbye, he realizes that today was his day to sleep in; he's not due at his Garment District studio for another hour or two. He allows himself a massive laugh. His breath is visible in the cold. "Well, looks like I'm early then."