Dress Up With Ease. Proenza Schouler Pre-Fall 2021

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Sustainable Elegance. Proenza Schoulder Resort 2021

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.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Effortless and Warm. Proenza Schouler SS21

In the absence of a New York Fashion Week show, the Proenza Schouler designers – Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough – made their first-ever book with the photographer Daniel Shea. Shot in August, it pairs expressive model shots with even more evocative images of the city: the skyline at sunset, the Empire State building seen through a tangle of power lines, a super-tall tower on Billionaires’ Row. It’s an ode to their hometown in a year when they’ve spent very little of their time in it. In the early months of the pandemic they were up at their place in the Berkshires. They spent March and April on Zoom business calls trying to figure out how to make it through this unprecedented situation. When they finally turned to their next collection, their normal processes weren’t possible: no research trip, no dips into their archive, no silhouette studies on a model. “All we walked into the studio with was a feeling. We wanted something that felt effortless and warm; we wanted to get rid of the sharp edges. It just had to make you feel good. For us that’s what fashion should be at its most successful. It should make one’s life easier and feel good,” Hernandez said. “A forever quality,” McCollough elaborated, “something that lasts.” There are decorative treatments for both night and day here; allover sequins cover a straight-line shirtdress, and the shoulders of a button-down shirt and waistline of button-fly trousers are graphically dip-dyed. But the big story is really the attitude adjustment; without being boring the clothes feel simpler than what they’ve put on their recent runways. They emphasized easy-to-wear ribbed-knit separates and dresses, and stripped any artifice from their tailoring, which is just slightly oversized and mannish save for the suits’ soft pastel colors. Putting the accent on silhouette, they made a dress with a choker collar, a cut-out asymmetrical neckline, and voluminous sleeves, then cut the drama with puffy slippers. Those flat shoes are a key to the season’s new mood, a timely nod to our more circumscribed lifestyles and the renewed value that women are placing on comfort. It’s looking more and more like we’ll be staying homebound well into 2021. The collection’s knockout dress in stretch jersey with circular cut-outs on the bodice will be similarly comfortable, but the reason that women will really respond to it is because it looks like a guaranteed good time.

Collages by Edward Kanarecki.

A Good Shift. Proenza Schouler AW20

Something has shifted at Proenza Schouler. The last few seasons from Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough weren’t their best, lets be honest – they were plain and mild, and seemed to drown in the New York fashion week crowd. But their autumn-winter 2020 collection feels different. Delicate silhouettes got replaced by sharper cuts, and instead of draped forms we’ve got something much more geometric and bold. Also, the lenghts are shorter, the mood isn’t slouchy. The first look was a little black dress slipping off the shoulder, worn with ruched leather boots. Later looks followed the same pattern of „undone” style: jackets and knits peeled off of one shoulder, stretch leather dresses were cut with asymmetrical necklines, and a cold shoulder sweater exposed both clavicles. The closing looks were all about comforting volume. The designers’ starting point was a blanket. The duo gave their stylist Camilla Nickerson one for Christmas which she started wearing as a scarf, and inspiration was born. “She’s blanketed in a protective layer of strength and confidence,” Hernandez said backstage. McCollough put it another way: “It’s about finding beauty in a world that’s unraveling.”

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Old Classics. Proenza Schouler SS20

While a less sophisticated collection from Eckhaus Latta feels right once in a while, Proenza Schouler’s new season offering again misses something that used to make the label so in-demand. Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough are very good at tailoring, and even better at cutting a fluid-y, silk dress (the printed one worn by Adut Akech is the biggest highlight of the collection). But in the sea of great blazers and dresses we’ve seen last season and again this season in New York, this doesn’t make Proenza stand out. It seems to me that the Proenza Schouler identity is gradually getting blurrier and less distinctive. Not that the spring-summer 2020 collection is bad: it has lots of classics, like an over-sized coat or an XXL shoulder bag. However, those clothes don’t spark any feelings in me. Where’s the bolder, art-ier Proenza Schouler? Hope it will come back soon.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.