Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez

NEW YORK After 15 years of personal and professional partnership, Proenza Schouler founders Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez seem close to becoming a single creative entity.

It’s impossible to tell who drew which sketch for their most recent collection and they even dress in a similar, staunchly normcore fashion; like Larry David, if he were a young aesthete. During Thursday night’s talk with former CNN host Alina Cho at the Metropolitan Museum of Art here as part of the museum’s “Atelier With Alina Cho” series, McCollough dressed in a red pullover and black Adidas Sambas, while Hernandez wore a black pullover and black Nike Air Force 1s. They had on almost identical charcoal skinny jeans.

This “morphing,” as McCollough put it, started in design school and probably lent itself to what seems to have been a conflict-free decision to move their runway presentations to Paris after spending their entire careers in New York.

“It was bittersweet for us to leave New York,” McCollough said. “I think New York is so good at fostering the young and up-and-coming and I think if we’d lived in one of the other fashion capitals, we wouldn’t have necessarily had the same opportunities that we had being in New York.”

Hernandez struck a less nostalgic tone after Cho noted that unnamed designers have “whispered” about feeling New York is less creative and more commercial as cause for Altuzarra, Rodarte and Thom Browne defecting for Paris, and seemed exasperated by the idea that where his designs are shown matters at all.

“It’s a time of fluidity in general in the world and these ideas that if you’re an American designer you have to show in New York [are archaic],” Hernandez said. “I remember, like, Tom Ford telling us a long time ago, ‘Get out of New York. Try something else and then come back.’ We’re showing in Paris right now, but maybe it’s not forever. For us, we have no, sort of, long-term plans on that level. Like, we might do that for a couple of seasons and come back. Who knows.”

Beyond not wanting to be hemmed in by staid notions, Hernandez admitted there are creative and business reasons for such a change. He noted that friend Rick Owens told him and McCollough that the best thing he “ever did” was move to Paris and start showing his collections there before saying the decision to move Proenza’s shows was “first and foremost for creative reasons.”

“I think when you’ve been doing this for as long as we have, you have to work to keep yourself excited,” Hernandez said. “You can start to feel like you’re going into autopilot — on a creative level, there’s nothing worse.”

While a change of scenery is always a source for inspiration, the opportunity for a less hectic and contracted design schedule seems to have been alluring as well.

“We had our first summer off since college this year, which was pretty genius,” McCollough said.

But by essentially combining their two pre-collections and two regular collections into what will now be two shows a year during Paris couture, Hernandez said the product will be retailing for “months” at full price, compared to the six- to eight-week window runway collections previously got before seasonal sales would kick in.

“Now these [spring] clothes are delivering into stores, well now, November, December, and it will be in stores way sooner than other designers, really around the world,” Hernandez said.

As for how retailers, which account for a majority of Proenza’s business, are taking to the change, both designers used the same word: “psyched.”

“I think they’re really excited,” McCollough elaborated. “I mean, it’s a different way of thinking for them, so people are kind of adjusting to this new method, but it feels like a new energy for them and they’re excited we’re merging the collections.”

Even though Paris was apparently calling (The Fédération Française de la Couture literally called and invited Proenza to show on the Paris couture schedule, according to Hernandez), the designers still split most of their time between New York and their house in The Berkshires, where they just spent two weeks together sketching their fall collection.

We’ve got this kind of long farm table and Lazaro sits at one end and I sit at the other and we literally just sketch for two weeks, 12 hours a day,” McCollough said. He remarked again how their drawing style has “morphed in one another.”

But even though they are, for now, showing in Paris, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s an American brand.

“We still represent American fashion,” Hernandez said. “All of us that are moving to Paris…we’re all still American.”

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