Proenza Schouler will be celebrating its 20th anniversary next year, and Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez have started to reminisce a bit.
Their first New York Fashion Week show was at The National Arts Club on Gramercy Park, and Tim Gunn sat front row.
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Back then, he wasn’t Tim Gunn TV star, he was Tim Gunn, dean of students at The New School’s Parsons School of Design, where the designers’ senior thesis became their first collection.
“He really helped us out.…He was the one who let us do our senior thesis together. No one had ever collaborated on a senior thesis before,” McCollough said.
The rest, as they say, is history. Twenty years in, the designers are more business minded than ever as they do what has been almost impossibly difficult for so many designers of their generation — keep it going.
“For us, pre-collection is very much about wardrobe building.…We find that it doesn’t make sense to throw away themes and ideas that we explored in the show that are proving successful and that are working,” Hernandez said. “It’s very much about exploring the language that we’ve created, building upon that and creating amazing wearable product.”
To wit, they homed in on all their key commercial categories, turning out a solid collection of easy-to-wear, urban cool sportswear with subtle nods to the beach.
There was a lot of classic tailoring — peacoats, a dead-straight cotton wool tuxedo coat, tropical twill blazers and baggy trousers, all with that Proenza attitude. An ecru suit — twill pleated pants with a foldover waistband, blazer and a black maillot-like ruched bodysuit worn with stompy black shoes — looked particularly great, harkening back to the New York cool-girl look the designers pioneered all those years ago. A black strapless crepe top and matching pants could also function as a sexy new suit for summer in the city.
A mint green, technical terry cloth dress wrapped the body almost like a towel, with some corset boning adding sex appeal, and won with ‘90s platform sandals. It was a great alternative to the ubiquitous slipdress.
They continued to push pops of color with a ruched papery leather keyhole dress in what they are calling a “Proenza yellow,” and played with the cropped polo, done in ecru Lurex, worn with a matching strappy knit dress that was peeled down and worn as a skirt for added versatility.
The designers sell a lot of jersey and the shiny ruffled hems on flippy matte jersey skirts added a bit of structure minus the full-on flamenco moment they had on the runway for spring 2023. One could see them being a summertime staple. Another hero skirt was a black double layer chiffon style with leather waist tie fastened on the side, giving Martha Graham vibes. They also showed a new iteration on their twist racer back dress with a sliver of print peeking out, almost like a bathing suit.
“When we first did it, we thought it was just an editorial thing, but we can’t keep it in stock,” McCollough said of the twisty style.
“It throws our merchandisers for a loop. They say, ‘Oh, we can’t sell this. It’s not bra friendly.’ And it’s one of the best selling dresses we’ve ever done.”
Proving that, even after 20 years, there’s always more to learn.
Launch Gallery: Proenza Schouler Pre-Fall 2023