New York-based streetwear brand Private Policy — helmed by designers Siying Qu and Haoran Li — has built a reputation for twisting their collections into provocative social statements. Their latest, presented during London Fashion Week: Men's, accomplishes exactly just for fall 2019.
The duo thought hard about the root of tension in our world, and used that to catapult this season's inspiration. Humans all have different relationships with money, whether it be love, hate, desire, or greed, and it ultimately fuels a class system that determines our individual roles in society.
Which is why Private Policy's entire collection rolled out as a stylized display of archetypes, or characters, all driven by money: Bankers wore oversized Wall Street-inspired wool coats, workers wore denim looks, and police officers and robbers wore vests, some filled with shredded cash ($10k in US dollars notably filling one).
PAPER caught up with the designers to break it all down.
There are references to money throughout this collection. How does it connect to the larger theme?
The Private Policy fall 2019 collection tells the story of four characters who are integral to the money system: bankers, workers, police officers, and robbers. Highlights include oversized tailored wool coats and outerwear referencing bankers; clear quilted vests and harnesses that pay homage to police officers and robbers; and denim utility workwear representing the working class. With these characters, we showcase our research of different relationships humans have with money, love, hate or just stress. In the recent political climate, the tension caused by money is getting intense globally, so we think it is important to raise a discussion on the issue for this season.
We see how money is dictating the world, as we make many decisions based on money only, which has made negative affects on the environment and animals. Ironically, nature does not care about money at all. So we call for more attention to actual important things, such as the Earth. So we put "In Nature We Trust," "In Love We Trust," and the globe as the center of a bill graphic, inspired by the NY street artist Acool55.
Some of your models had their hands bound together. Why?
The first two looks are the bank robber characters. They have their hands tied, but a lot of cash on their face, and their vests are made of real shredded bills — one is 10k worth American dollar bills, one is Saudi Arabian 100 bills. It is a symbolic statement that money may not give one freedom as it promises, because one can become a slave for greed.
"Money is not good or evil. It is our usage and interpretation of it make the difference."
You've always been inspired by classic American silhouettes. How did that come into play with this collection?
We definitely brought our New York attitude to London this season again. We have silhouettes inspired by classic American worker wear, such as overall pants with pockets, cargo pants, and the classic jean jacket and jeans sets, with our own twist by adding hardware rings and clips. The color theme of greys, black, brown, and orange is also based on common American workwear colors.
In contrast, we also have the Wall street banker looks in the end of the show wearing suits and overcoats. But we changed the proportion and used our signature silk wool fabric to give them a more youthful vibe. It is maybe our wish for a more progressive generation of bankers, if that is possible [Laughs].
There are lots of these military-looking vests throughout. What inspired you to include this?
The vests are inspired by police vests, such as the plaid vests, and construction worker vests, the deconstruction vest on jackets. These vests are so interesting because of the amazing details of fully velcro on pockets, adjustable straps, easy adjustable details. All these extremely functional designs give the collection depth.
They linked to the concept of our worker and police characters closely. These two characters sometimes are forced to be on the opposite sides, for examples in protests. However, we find them actually on the same side when looking at the grand view, such as in the story of French police joining the yellow vest protestors in Paris. So we thought it is interesting to bring this comparison through the similarities of the vests they wear.
Do you ultimately think money is good or evil? The collection seems to raise the question — it could be a celebration or a critique.
As usual, we think of our design process as a newspaper report, hence the newspaper layout invitations we do every season. So we don't take sides on money. Money is created by humans to be our tool. We just think it should not be treated like our God and to be allowed to dictate our world. Money is not good or evil. It is our usage and interpretation of it make the difference.
What does the shirt model Jacopo (above) is wearing say?
The shirt graphic says "call for more money" in Chinese, which is the words on Qing dynasty metal coins. It is our way to add our Chinese heritage into our collection — a continuation of our all asian casting show last time in London, as well. We thought to have words call for more money on money is a perfect example of human obsession of money throughout history and across culture.
You've worked with Jacopo several times in the past. How does he represent Private Policy?
Jacopo has a very strong personality, and always bring great positive energy. Private Policy celebrities individuality and freedom, we think Jacopo showcase that on the runway very well. We do genderless clothing and encourage self-expression and self-love. [We want] to have all people feel the most comfortable to express themselves.
For more information on Private Policy, visit privatepolicyny.com.
Photos courtesy of Private Policy/Getty