In their Fall 2019 collection “Human vs. Money,” Siying Qu and Haoran Li explore the relationship people have with money, and ruminate on how money often powerfully directs our interactions with each other. In fact, the designers posit that money is at the root of almost all the sources of tension in the world, on a personal, societal, and global level. The collection was presented as a series of 4 characters who each represent a significant role in the money system – robbers, police, workers, and bankers. Streetwear, tactical “warcore” gear, utility vests, and fine tailoring represent the different roles and appear sometimes melded together in ultra modern looks.
The show opened with a provocation, two models representing robbers wearing clear vinyl quilted vests stuffed with shredded currency, one filled with $10,000 worth of American one dollar bills, the other filled with shredded Saudi Arabian $100 bills. Chains and leather straps cuffed their wrists together, fishnet hose covered their heads, and crumpled dollar bills were stuffed around their faces. The models’ bare arms were painted with currency-inspired tattoo lettering reading In Nature We Trust- an allusion to the fact that nature operates with no regard for money, which seems an odd choice of tattoo for a robber, to be honest. While the robber/police dichotomy felt a tad goofy, triggering associations of Hollywood shoot’em ups or children’s cops and robbers games, the tactical vests full of Saudi Arabian and American bills were loaded with deadly sobriety. That concept on its own could have been material for an entire collection.
Utility vests were a huge theme in the collection overall and also featured heavily in the segment of the show representing the police. The designers posed the vests as a symbol of how sometimes people in opposition find they are actually on the same side, citing an incident where a number of police joined the side of protesters in France’s Gilets Jaunes protests. After a series of plaid and black button downs and more tactical details, the looks moved into the Workers and Bankers segments, which contained some of the most standout pieces. A memorable shirt jacket with detachable snap sleeves featured a graphic orange and tan pattern pulled from the paper tubes banks use to bundle quarters. Golden taupe mixed with denim and brown workwear brought a lovely gilded look to velveteen denim jackets and construction worker uniforms. Tawny browns were repeatedly mixed with vivid neon orange to great effect, feeling vibrantly warm in a unique synthesis of the natural and synthetic. Metallic effect silk wool in unusual colors, a brand signature, appeared in beautiful tailoring, including a superb greenish gold suit with crisp white collar shirt worn with slicked back hair. Two beautifully executed Wallstreet banker style greatcoats closed out the collection in black and white checks.
The goal of Private Policy is to use clothing to create a snapshot or news brief of our time. Their website is laid out in the form of a newspaper, and each collection reports on an issue the design duo feels strongly should be explored in continued dialogue. At times the collection felt a little contradictory in its message – calling for unity in the form of hashtag appliques such as #truth, #value and #conscious – while also feeling clearly confrontational in tone, with many looks insinuating combat and riot attire. Allusions to money were at times haphazard, with random dollar signs thrown in here and there, and conflicting slogans (i.e. “Call for more money” in Chinese pulled from a Qing dynasty coin featured on a t-shirt, and Private Policy’s own theme “In Nature We Trust” on several sweatshirts). Nonetheless, what does come across clearly is a reflection of the values of Private Policy’s generation, which aims to break down social classism and live by their own rules, where people are not valued or limited by their level of wealth.