In the lead-up to the Proenza Schouler show on Monday, some people spoke about it with elegiac gravitas, as if the house’s “last show in New York” were a matter to mourn. Folks, as far as Jack and Lazaro are concerned, they’re moving up, to an earlier schedule during the pinnacle season of haute in the city that deifies fashion like nowhere else on Earth. Don’t cry for me, Argentina.
For New York, however, the exit of McCollough and Hernandez’s Proenza is a loss — or perhaps a milestone, and not of the happiest sort. It marks the end of an ascendant period in American fashion that saw an explosion of new talent into the mainstream, and thrust New York into the center of the proverbial international fashion conversation, a place it hadn’t often found itself and from which it has now been pushed off to the side.
Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough were on the front of that explosion. We can all read what we will into their fashion week exile, but one thing is certain: They think that right now, Paris makes more sense to them as a showcase for their work.
Backstage before their show, they admitted to having approached this show as something of a punctuation mark, and in that respect, they wanted to make it a celebration of New York. That the show didn’t scream archetypes or make cute references to Gotham, hardly surprised. McCollough and Hernandez have never been linear thinkers in terms of their creative expression. They wanted to capture the way they feel about New York. “Anti-ease,” McCollough offered.
“Not political per se, but it’s about doing something, getting involved,” Hernandez chimed in. “That’s what New York is about.”
That translated into a trove of powerful new iterations of the high-intensity, gritty elegance that has become their signature. Within that, there are few restraints on where Hernandez and McCollough are willing to go. Out came a big, boxy outerwear piece, its utilitarian function not at all hindered by souped-up design elements — off-kilter twists, breaks and sometimes, wide, flying streamers proclaiming the brand’s name. Then followed a leather dress, twisted around the body and cinched tightly at the waist, and a cloud of two-tiered ivory flou, almost angelic even atop edgy black shoes. That diaphanous gem aside, as McCollough said, these clothes clothes were anti-ease, at least through the design process. Never afraid of flamboyance, the designers worked bold abstract prints with the tribal resonance they love. Their collaged and layered dresses are wonders of construction and movement, most of them compilations of undulating shapes, color, texture and bare skin. Rendered in micro palettes, they were great, providing a daring, modernist alternative to classic (read: ordinary) eveningwear options.
Hernandez and McCollough are by nature experimental. They’ve created some remarkable work in their relatively short time at Proenza Schouler, yet like many others, have faced challenges in growing their business. Is Paris the answer? Stay tuned.