BOSTON — Eleven years into Proenza Schouler, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez may look as youthful as ever, but their business is fully adult.
The designers employ 120-plus people, and have a development office in Italy, a handful of shops-in-shop internationally, ads running in Vogue and a second U.S. store bowing in New York’s SoHo on Greene Street in a few weeks.
Perhaps that’s what winning five Council of Fashion Designers of America awards, including three for Womenswear Designer of the Year (2007, 2011 and 2013), will do for you.
But they haven’t forgotten their roots — in this case, a longtime relationship with Louis Boston owner Debi Greenberg, among the first stores (after Barneys New York) to buy them.
Greenberg brought the duo to the Institute of Contemporary Art here on Thursday night to discuss their design process.
“We look outside our own world for inspiration,” said Hernandez. “We want to find fashion outside fashion.”
“Of course, we need to know what happened in the past to move it forward,” McCollough qualified.
Before the talk, the pair walked the galleries with ICA chief curator Helen Molesworth, pointing out works by Donald Moffett (they own a few at home), Klara Lidén and others without having to read the tags.
They’d recently been to the Venice Biennale and taken in the Prada-sponsored show “When Attitudes Become Form.” They have an ongoing love affair with Brazilian furniture from the Seventies and the “achrome” paintings of Piero Manzoni, an Italian artist who worked cotton, heavy paint and pleated canvas into sculptural, all-white canvases. They worked something similar for this fall’s collection, commissioning a fabric composed of one-eighth-inch strips of feathery white tulle woven together to create the effect of freshly fallen snow.
“We love something that is not polished, is a little bit raw, but can be translated into something very sophisticated,” Hernandez said. They describe their customer as “discrete and nonchalant.”
How does the design partnership work, Molesworth asked: doubly imperious or supercollaborative?
“At this point, we’re almost one brain,” McCollough said. “But actually the seasons where we clash the most are usually our strongest seasons.”
They start with a mood, and discuss which silhouettes define it. But it was clear that fabric — not silhouette — is the duo’s real creative passion. They develop it from scratch.
“Two arms, two legs. You can only take silhouette so far,” Hernandez remarked. Whereas “when you talk about being contemporary, for us it’s about technology and these insane textiles that we couldn’t do 10 years ago.”
You can “take a picture with your phone, e-mail it to a mill and they can weave it,” McCollough said. “You can say, ‘I want raffia and leather cut up and mixed with cotton, and I want it a half-inch thick. There are also amazing ways to bond fabrics.”
Asked whether they would follow their peers like Alexander Wang at Balenciaga to a marquee design job, they were clear.
“People ask, ‘Why not us?’ and the answer is we’ve been approached,” Hernandez said, declining to specify by whom.
“A lot of people see designing for a [major Paris house] as a barometer of success. We see being independent and calling our own shots as a barometer of freedom,” added McCollough. “We’ve seen people like Tom Ford and Nicolas Ghesquière, for all the success and credibility they had [at Gucci and Balenciaga], they were still employees. When you walk out the door, all those archives and all your hard work you leave behind.”
That means the Proenza Schouler store growth pace will be organic, and they’re fine with that. They’ve recently opened a spate of shops-in-shop (Galeries Lafayette, Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong, Bergdorf Goodman, to name a few) and are looking for additional expansion in Asia.
Men’s wear? No time soon.
“You have to be really sharp before you move on to the next thing,” said Lazaro.
The pair touched on their start, recalling their internships at Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs, and living in a studio apartment with their friend Shirley Cook, who is now their company’s chief executive officer.
Though they are only a decade into the company, both designers seemed a bit wistful about those freer days. Their social circle is deeply rooted in the contemporary art scene. They envy their painter friends for creativity that isn’t bound to show calendars and delivery dates. Someday, they might have time for furniture design or other interests, McCollough said.
“For right now, we’re doing this,” Hernandez said. “As a creative person, we want to explore and do so much, but we also know to do something really well you have to focus.”
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
Not only does #TheProfit return to CNBC tonight, but @marcuslemonis has launched @shopmarcus, a new shopping and lifestyle retail experience in Aspen and Chicago, with more locations to come. The retail stores offer in-store stylists and a variety of contemporary womenswear selections.
“It’s life, I’m going to face it,” @mingxi11 sighed. “I fell, but you know, I think the most important thing is that I get back up. I had the love, the help from my sister — the girl next to me Gizele [Oliveira] — she’s so nice. When I went backstage everybody was trying to comfort me like ‘Oh Ming, it’s OK.’ I’m really, really touched. I think it’s them who gave me the courage to go back on stage for the finale,” Xi told WWD of her fall at the @victoriassecret fashion show. (📷: David Fisher) #wwdfashion #vsfashionshow #victoriassecret
@louisvuitton tapped @therealpeterlindbergh for its latest city-centric photo book, which is part of a series called Fashion Eye. The primarily black and white book captures the spirit of Berlin in 57 images shot between 1989 and 2019. “Berlin is an inspiration for me, more than a city. I mean @millajovovich is simply Berlin!” said Lindbergh. #wwdfashion
“You know, I think audiences expect a certain performance so I have to deliver to them what they’re expecting to a certain degree. But I’m also a different actor and a different person, I have my own spin on the character,” says @noahegalvin of his takeover of the leading role in “Dear Evan Hansen” following the departure of @bensplatt, who originated the role. Read WWD’s interview with the 23-year-old actor on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
For pre-fall 2018, @etro created richly-colored wonderland, using tapestries, textiles and wallpapers from the Eastern world at large. The line featured floral and graphic prints and jacquard motifs, like this two-piece look featured here. #wwdfashion (📷: Giovanna Pavesi)
@kith is moving into children’s. The men’s and women’s streetwear brand has launched Kidset, a Kith kids line located in New York at 64 Bleecker Street. The line includes mini versions of staple Kith pieces like the Astor bomber jacket and the Kith box logo sweatshirts, along with a wall that can display up to 120 pairs of shoes from @adidas, @newbalance, @timberland and more. #wwdfashion
“I just wanted to create this fully rounded character, but I do think what excited me most was just the opportunity to give a group of people representation that I feel needs it. I like to do characters in projects that stand for something and Karolina definitely does, so that was really exciting to me,” @ginnygardner says of her new role in @hulu’s “The Runaways.” Gardner plays Karolina Dean, a queer superhero, which is a rarity for @marvel. Read more about Gardner’s character on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @dandoperalski)