Anyone confused by the noise at the end of Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez’s Proenza Schouler show on Monday afternoon is to be forgiven. It’s something we don’t hear much these days — the sound of enthusiastic (bordering on riotous), sustained applause, the kind that can’t be made while slapping one hand on a thigh while Snapchatting with the other. The designers’ 38 looks of in-your-face fashion compelled people to put down their phones and express their appreciation the old-fashioned way.
It was a thrill. The thrill of captivation and engagement; the thrill of not feeling neutral. And not because every thought on parade was brand-spanking new. These guys are intent on developing their business, a tough order in today’s climate. Shifting their show from the 8 p.m. Wednesday slot to Monday afternoon telegraphed intent — they’re focused on the clothes more than the event, and they want to share that focus. To that end, they sought to develop their core, the codes they’ve developed laboriously these past 10 or so years: “color, energy, technology. It’s all of those things, and then it’s crafts and artisanal constructions,” McCollough said.
They offered a variety of cuts, working them into a cohesive whole. Given their interest in handcrafts, their collections tend to have a tribal vibe, even when not specifically intended, as was the case here. On the other hand, bold graphics swung modernist, sending the power of antithesis pulsing through. Here comes an ultracurvy, engineered striped dress; there goes a big flying square of a skirt. There were raw-looking dresses fastened with knots, another code, and a surprise ode to the Bar jacket, precision sculpted over a skirt. A vibrant intarsia mink had a tricked-out T-shirt tied at the waist (it was printed with a Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpture and a picture of McCollough’s fist). And on and on, never a dull moment, nor an uninspired one.
Those who hadn’t gone backstage or otherwise previewed didn’t know the half of it. Details of the materials were mind-blowing. A feather-hemmed dress in a red and black grid appeared to be a flocked fabric. Wrong! It was handwoven in Paris of cut ostrich feathers. A dress that from afar looked like basic wide stripes was instead woven leather, each wide stripe woven of multiple strips.
Hardly the stuff of buy-now-wear-now with production runs committed to months ago. “What we do is so much about feeling in that moment,” Hernandez said. “To have done this six months ago and to have held on to it, it wouldn’t have that same energy for us. It’s about the creativity and pushing fashion and the motion.” Added McCollough, “It’s a different kind of fashion.” The kind that thrills.