Easy Formality. Proenza Schouler AW22

Here we go – it’s New York Fashion Week, the most IRL one since the start of pandemic. This season it’s opened by a very New York collection, coming from Proenza Schouler. And this isn’t just another line-up, but a collection that celebrates Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough‘s 20th year in business. Take a look back at the Parsons graduation collection that started it all for them in 2003, and you will notice that much has changed in the intervening decades. The brand had its ups and downs throughout the years, and for a couple of seasons now it consequently heads towards a sort of sophisticated, yet aesthetically minimalist formality. “Comfort” and “ease” are fashion’s buzzwords of the moment, relics of a lockdown that remain even as the emergence we’ve been hoping for starts to take shape. The corseted silhouettes that were the first Proenza Schouler signature, however, have been completely rethought for today, constructed from machines that knit in circles, allowing for a seamless, molded look. Can a strapless dress with volume evocative of 18th-century panniers really feel effortless? Yes, if it’s in sculpted knitwear with a circular bias-cut skirt. Hernandez and McCollough gave their tailoring the same waisted look by accessorizing suits with torso-spanning body shapers, or by cutting jackets and coats to wrap across the midriff and button off to the side, the cloth equivalent of a firm hug. If this outing was a reappraisal of their past, it wasn’t reliant on it. A loose-fitting shirtdress with a fluid looped hem stood out for its color, a vibrant purple that they’ve avoided before. The animal print is another new indulgence – here it was deliberately glitched, as if the color didn’t take in the folds and creases of the fabric as it went through the machine.

It’s a strong collection coming from the Proenza boys, yet I just can’t get rid of the impression I constantly have with them since a couple of seasons. The brand had its Phoebe Philo’s Céline phase, then a New Bottega obsession, and now… The Row era? That’s the thing – in the beginning of Proenza Schouler, the brand was so distinct you just couldn’t mistake it with any other brand. Now, it echoes those brands-of-the-moment that emphasize the less is more rule in the most refined and luxurious ways. Is it really what the brand stands for? Does it have to fill that (heavily oversaturated) niche? If there’s one thing to reflect on while celebrating the anniversary, then it’s retrieving the label’s real, authentic voice.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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