NEW YORK — It was supposed to be a keynote address from Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, the design team behind Proenza Schouler, but it turned into a job fair of sorts.

This story first appeared in the November 25, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

But it was the Fashion Group International’s Career Day at the Fashion Institute of Technology, so the job hunting was appropriate.

McCollough’s advice — “What’s most important is to get internships” — was taken to heart by the students, who following the duo’s speech, stormed them with résumés, business cards and disposable cameras.

The pair was speaking from experience. As a sophomore at Parsons , Hernandez slipped a note to Anna Wintour on a Miami flight — the first step toward landing an internship at Michael Kors. McCollough interned at Marc Jacobs.

“Who doesn’t want free help? Why would they say no,” Hernandez asked.

“Work for free, work nights or whatever. Eventually, you will get there,” McCollough said.

In return, students see what it takes to be a designer and pick up a crash course in business at the same time. “Our business classes were really our internships,” McCollough added.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they liked it. “To be honest, we stink at billing and all that stuff. So we have a friend who worked at Helmut Lang that does all that stuff for us. You just need friends who believe in what you’re doing.”

Some financial backing won’t hurt either. But the pair insisted they’re not interested in a labyrinth of licenses. With the exception of developing signature footwear “to complete their look,” they said they have no major expansion plans.

“We’re so happy right now where we are. We have an investor but we don’t have anyone breathing down our shoulders,” Hernandez said. “We don’t have any huge global plans to conquer the world. It’s just kind of cool to do what you love to do.”

Their conservative outlook won points with the crowd. “It’s a business, but we’re much more interested in it as a craft,” McCollough said. “We create a specific look but we want to make clothes. That’s what we like.”

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