Proenza Schouler radiates with a laid-back, easy-going, summer-ish energy this season. There’s a reason why. Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough made Kauai their “home-office” during a period of pandemic time – it’s their favourite destination that they call their “sanctuary.” The island vibe influenced their new collection, which mixed scuba and surfing motifs, a color palette plucked from nature, and a few handmade leis from Maui with their more urban fare. Backstage after their Little Island show, they clarified that Hawaii wasn’t a literal reference, but rather a starting point for the collection’s ambience. Most of all, “they’re joyful clothes to step out in the world again.” There were suits, but they come in vivid shades of coral or orange cotton jacquard. Basic black, meanwhile, isn’t so basic when suit bottoms are cut tight like bicycle shorts with swingy fringe below the hems. A pair of block-printed floral dresses with looped hems had verve; the designers pointed out that the prints were the same on the front and back of the fabric rather than being reversed, a complicated technique to pull off. The point of the collection was not to look complicated – who needs too much sophistication after the tumultuous times? The gowns, in gorgeous acid colors, were made from fine gauze jersey, perfect for beach strolling. “They stretch and move, we all want to be comfortable.” This was one of the best Proenza Schouler collections in seasons, even though some Phoebe-Philo-Célinisms can’t be ruled out of their vocabulary.
While nearly every single designer is musing on re-emerging and dressing up again as more and more people get vaccinated, the Proenza Schouler boys rather stay realistic. Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough aren’t buying the roaring twenties, at least for the moment. “You want to hold onto some of that ease, some of that comfort, some of that intimacy that you had with the pandemic,” Hernandez told Vogue. “But then you want to introduce things that feel a little bit more nipped, more tucked, something a little bit more tailored.” They’re emphasizing knits in the form of ribbed tanks and pull-on pants that puddle at the ankles, and their high-buttoning jackets are made to be as easy-wearing as cardigans. Silhouettes are grounded by flat shoes, either fuzzy house slippers or thick-soled, heavy-tread boots of the sort that have recently been trending. The nipping and tucking Hernandez talked about was achieved in a couple different ways: a top and pants in oversized proportions were swaddled at the waist and fixed with a gold pin, while tunic-length bouclé tweed tops were slightly peplumed at the hips, creating a New Look-ish line that they kept modern by layering leather shorts and those big boots underneath. The clearest sign of the change to come, once we get past the pandemic, might be a chunky knit sweater and matching skirt combo that stands out not just for its eye-catching shade of marigold but also for the fresh mini-length of its skirt. I kind of wish there was more of that boldness in the designers’ latest offerings. Still, in its leggy, unencumbered attitude it looks like a compelling direction for the duo.
Ella Emhoff’s (Vice President Kamala Harris’s step daughter) modelling debut (she was signed by IMG Models not long after her stylish presence at the Inauguration) was probably the biggest, clickbait moment of this very plain New York Fashion Week. She had her cameo appearance in Proenza Schoulder‘s autumn-winter 2021 look-book and video, and definitely delivered some spotlight to those level-headed, a bit monotonous garments. Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough are the old hands (the brand is celebrating its 20th anniversary… yes, time flies!) on the local fashion week calendar, with many establishment brands showing later (or not all) this season. Maybe not coincidentally, they mentioned the word “balance” to Vogue: balancing the work-from-home moment we’re currently in with the optimism they feel sure is coming; balancing softness with structure, and minimalism with a more crafted aesthetic. The result is a collection that feels of a piece with their recent, consistenly minimalist work. They still favor an earthy palette and they continue to work their repertoire of lean, confident pant suits and fluid midi-dresses, a particularly striking one in chartreuse and brown tie-dye. But where a year ago, jackets and dresses were tugged off shoulders, this season that “attitude,” as they called it, was built into their patterns, be it a spongy knit dress with an askew head hole or a top with a swooping asymmetrical hem. The former snaked around the body, while the latter had a buoyant sculptural volume. Clothes that work harder while also being easier to wear – the new investment pieces, which make sense in COVID times.
My first ever “live” collage, which I’ve created having TikTok on my mind… just playing around and checking out the app everybody’s buzzing about! Search @designandculturebyed, because I might stay there for good! Still, I think I will always feel much more confident on Instagram.
Proenza Schouler boys continue to work with soft minimalism in the era of WFH. But for pre-fall 2021, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough try to elevate the stay-at-home style. According to McCollough, the line-up “celebrates the joy of dressing up, while injecting a strong sense of ease.” A halter dress in fine gauge crochet with graphic stripes tracing the neckline captures the vibe. Other hands-on touches include the deep lengths of fringe on knit skirts and asymmetrically placed mismatched buttons on closely fitted, unstructured blazers worn with puddling bell-bottom pants. In another look, the designers used a gold chain to gather the hem of a dress to its midriff, looping the fabric through hoops to create a decorative slimming detail at the waist. It’s all good, but I wish most of it didn’t feel like a moodboard filled with Phoebe Philo’s Céline and new Bottega. In a normal year, these maxi, tank-dresses would be destined for summer weddings and other special occasions. Nobody knows if those dates will hold, if the vaccine will be widely available by then or if we’ll still be waiting. That’s a lot of uncertainty to wrestle with for pretty much everybody in the industry, going forward into 2021. Still, dressing up for an attitude boost is never a bad idea, even while staying at home, so why not stay hopeful.
The whole crisis of 2020 appears to work well for some creatives. This sort of reset was really needed. Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler have released their spring-summer 2021 look-book not a while ago, and it was brilliant. Now, as the new season clothes are gradually arriving to stores, the boys dropped their resort 2021 line-up, which is equally great. It seems that the designers took a deep breath, reflected on their work from the last couple of seasons, and returned to Proenza Schouler’s core, but in a contemporary, thoughtful way. The resort collection is very much a product of lockdown time. The designers spent the early months of the pandemic talking business. The fashion industry was essentially at a standstill in that moment and the new normal had them reconsidering the issue of sustainability. “As a brand with a voice it’s our responsibility to address these things,” McCollough said. Over the years, they’ve amassed a huge archive of fabrics and they created parts of this pre-spring offering out of those deadstock materials. “It’s not a patchwork vibe, but it’s fabrics we’ve done before, and it’s been game changing,” said Hernandez. They’re also introducing a core offering with this collection that won’t be subject to markdowns, and hope to expand it to up to 30% of their business. “It’s relevant now, but it’s not going to be irrelevant six months from now,” Hernandez continued. “It’s a black sweater, wool suitings, nylon gabardines. So it’s sustainable also in that regard.” Browsing the lineup, it has a certain earthiness, but it hasn’t lost its cool. The palette is warm, and the smocking details feel crafty, almost homespun even on leather. As with the main collection, there’s an emphasis on easy-wearing knits. But all that is counterbalanced by minimal, ’90s-ish tailoring, which is elegant and chic.