There’s no denying Dao-Yi Chow’s influence in the fashion industry, especially menswear. Chow’s worked with Sean John and Donna Karen, and he co-founded the CFDA award-winning brand Public School.
Now, along with NFL quarterback Tom Brady and Jens Grede, founder of Frame and Skims, Chow is behind Brady’s namesake apparel brand, which launched in January 2022. Shaped by Chow, the brand’s creative director, Brady’s key attributes include intentionality and functionality.
“This is the first time [I’ve designed pure performance wear], and it’s been a really enjoyable journey. The way we approach design at Brady is a lot more intentional than in my past work. It’s thinking about the end user in intentional ways and approaching development — whether that’s [a product’s] silhouette or fabric textile — in a very clear way,” Chow said on the latest episode of The Glossy Podcast. “I’m not saying I haven’t designed in a clear way before, but it was a lot more subjective. The design process [at Brady] is less about trying to make something cool, [and more about] making something that’s functional and does what we’re saying it will do.”
As creative director, Chow has designed multiple collections that represent the brand’s core goal of blending performance and lifestyle. That includes its swim collection, which launched over the summer. As the brand prepares to celebrate its first anniversary on January 12, building upon its popular core apparel items and expanding its distribution are top of mind.
Below are additional highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.
Building a brand identity separate from the founder
“[Brady] was a completely collaborative project. When you have all the [fashion] names that we have involved [in the project], it only makes sense that we’d lean on the years of expertise, experience and know-how. It was a collaborative process with Tom [Brady] involved. In football, specifically, he’s the G.O.A.T.; there aren’t many players you could mention in the same vein as him and his success and his accomplishments. We had to find what about his greatness we could tie [into the brand] that could resonate beyond just sports. Then [we had to] be careful to balance or separate the man from the brand. With all those things put together, everyone had some considerable input into how we would tackle branding him and branding the brand, and separating those two things. [We wanted to have a balance of] having him jump in when we needed and also being able to have the product and the aesthetic stand on its own.”
Being both business- and creative-minded
“Early in my career, I wasn’t involved in much of the business side [of a brand], for better or for worse. It wasn’t something I thought about a lot. But being an entrepreneur and starting your own label, you have to think about the business in new ways beyond just the creative. With Brady, specifically, there [is a lot of useful information coming from] the metrics and analytics. The Brady business is direct to consumer, so we collect a ton of information that is readily available to us. It would be silly not to take that into consideration and have that inform how and what kind of product we’re making.”
Taking a risk on new designs
“There’s probably data on everything and every category nowadays. But there are certainly times when you, as a designer, are fighting for an idea, whether with your merchants or with the business side of things. You just instinctually believe in it. [Designers] don’t design in a vacuum or in a bubble, and hopefully, you’re connected to what’s happening outside and in the real world, whether on a micro or macro level. That informs your instinct, and it feeds your belief in something. … To be a really good designer, sometimes you have to be a good salesperson and sell that idea. … If we were just purely data-driven, and I’m sure some companies operate that way, we would lose the soul in a lot of the things that we make. [Soul] is the thing that people resonate with and feel.”