For George Lewis Jr., better known as the chief creative force behind the musical act Twin Shadow, playing a sold-out show in front of thousands is one thing — but modeling clothes, well, that’s a whole different story. “I’m more uncomfortable with the idea, now more than ever,” Lewis says. “I know pretty much nothing about what actual modeling is.” Lewis may feel more at home on the stage than the runway, but that hasn’t stopped the dapper rock star from collaborating with the designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne on their fashion label Public School. Twin Shadow’s latest partnership with the brand, which debuted this morning at New York Fashion Week: Men’s for the spring/summer 2016 collection, featured both new music from the artist — and Lewis’s first time walking in a fashion show.
The partnership itself, though, is far from new. Lewis met Osborne and Chow when he was just coming off his first record, 2009’s alt-pop slow burn “Forget.” “I was still living in Bushwick and just barely getting my feet on the ground with Twin Shadow,” says Lewis, when his manager informed him that he had helped inspire Public School’s first collection. “I went up to meet the guys and there were pictures of me all up on a pinboard — I was super weirded out,” he says with a chuckle. (Lewis had thought it was his music, more than his appearance, that had influenced the designers.) Despite the awkward introduction, the three immediately clicked and soon after, Lewis appeared in a fashion film for the brand. “It’s been ongoing ever since,” Lewis says.
According to Lewis, Chow and Osborne’s current collection is especially personal, drawing on America’s fraught history of racial tensions and police brutality. “I think everyone, myself included, is really affected by what seems to be a deteriorating America,” Lewis says. “And, at least musically, that’s where they wanted me to come from.” Lewis’s sound design, which was composed specifically for the show, draws on themes of public protest from the past and present. “They’re leaning toward a darker energy,” says Lewis. “They gave me Gil Scott-Heron as a reference and a lot of these symbols of black America at the end of the ’70s, you know, a time also when there was this public outcry about authority just abusing their power.” His mix for the show premieres exclusively here.
Lewis sees a parallel between Public School’s shift from a so-called streetwear brand into a high-fashion success story and his own growth as a musician. “It’s exciting to be around people who also have similar goals — to come out of obscurity and be relevant, or just get noticed at all, and then beyond that, trying to make all your crazy dreams happen,” says Lewis. “They got noticed, and then they struggled to not be pigeonholed, and I feel the same way. I feel this constant need to move and to evolve, and I think they’re very much like that.” As for his own fashion, Lewis’s look is as slick as ever, but being closer to the fashion world has, if anything, helped his style relax. “If it’s not effortless, I feel somewhat ridiculous,” he says.