A look from Proenza Schouler's Hava handbag collection.


Proenza Schouler made a personal appearance at Bergdorf Goodman Thursday afternoon. Flanked by spend-happy tourists and eager fashion students, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough were “super energized” by the experience.

“It’s interesting to come and see what people are responding to and what they are feeling,” McCollough said of the event, which saw an artisan take residence on Bergdorf’s first floor to customize the leather-woven chain straps of the brand’s new Hava handbag family. McCollough said that observing the customization at play helped him and Hernandez better understand what customers are gravitating toward.

“It’s important insight to see what the customers and fans are interested in, just as we are in production for the new fall bags,” added Proenza’s recently instated chief executive officer Judd Crane, also on-hand.

Proenza Schouler, as previously reported by WWD, looks to double its handbag business in the next two to three years. As such, the brand has introduced the Hava range, as well as a forthcoming update to its PS1 core design, to be called the PS1+.

According to Crane, additional innovations are on the way. “This is not a climate for basic leather goods,” he said. “It’s a time, we hear, that the customer needs to have an emotional connection to the bags. [Accessories] are a really important focus for us,” he said.

Bergdorf’s, which recently unveiled a remodeled handbag salon, feels the same.

“Having [Jack and Lazaro] here is a big get,” said the store’s president, Josh Shulman. “We’ve made many efforts to launch this new main floor, and it’s important for our customers and fans to get to meet the designers [of product] face-to-face.”

Among the afternoon’s attendees was a cotillion of accessory design students from The New School’s Parsons School of Design. They included a senior who said she felt the customization techniques being exhibited helped foster “a more intimate connection between the brand and the consumer. It makes people care more about the items that they own, if they have a hand in its design.”

She felt that her attendance at the event would help teach her practices “in being able to quickly adapt to the market.”

Such skills are in need, according to Hernandez, who was overheard telling students that the brand finds it difficult to recruit quality accessory designers.

“[Accessory design] wasn’t an option when we were students [at Parsons], and everyone wants to go into fashion design,” he said. “There are much less of them, they’re hard to find.”

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