Proenza Schouler on creative upcycling in the lockdown
Ever since they launched their fashion house back in 2002, Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez have been among the half-dozen most relevant and exciting designers in America pretty much every fashion season.
Three-time winners of the CFDA Award for best womenswear design, the pair have had to hunker down through the lockdown, retreating to their farm in the Berkshires, a country haven north of New York.
Where they developed the ideas for their purist new spring 2021 collection, which they unveiled at midnight on November 11. We caught up with the two designers, profiting from the quieter moment to spend a month in LA.
FashionNetwork.com: Hello gents, where are you today?
Lazaro Hernandez (LH): We are in a 1930 Schindler house with wrap-around views of LA.
Jack McCollough (JMcC): You can actually see the Hollywood Hills sign, though it isn’t exactly hot in LA. Something like the low 40s. Don’t ask me what that is in Celsius.
FNW: How has lockdown gone ?
JMcC: Well, it was one of the darker moments in world history, but beautiful moments came of out of it. Mid-March, we moved to our farm up in the Berkshires to be creative and work. And, to avoid our friends who maybe went in other direction.
LH: We didn’t come back until mid-June and then we were in business mode and taking the appropriate measures to make it through this meltdown.
JMcC: The lockdown felt bittersweet as we learned new lessons – like being more sustainably focused and working with a smaller team. And we plan to carry that forward.
LH: We were never able to leave New York before for more than 10 days. We feel now we can be equally effective at a distance. We just finished sketching our fall ideas in the Berkshires, and are getting things made out here in LA. Frankly, we felt like hamsters for so long.
FNW: How did being out of NYC affect your designs?
LH: What was interesting was once we knew we had no show and could cut costs and offset losses, well we approached it differently. Normally, we develop a road map based on vintage research and archives and a style and then sit down to draw. But this season when we sat down draw there was none of that. Our normal system was thrown out. It was like writing a book without an outline – nor preconceived ideas. Just blank paper and pencils and whatever. The mood we were in – it just came from the heart and pure imagination.
JMcC: It was freeing to have no show, which we have always done. Before we story boarded the show like a movie. This time we purely focused on the woman.
FNW: What did you want to say with these clothes?
LH: We wanted the feeling of effortlessness. For women to go out and buy clothes right now they have to make the wearer feel good. They cannot be tricky or fussy or difficult. They have to serve a purpose and a need. It cannot complicate her life in anyway. We wanted joyful and optimistic. The world needs that now.
JMcC: We wanted to strip away all the hard lines of last season, so we thought soft knitwear was very essential. We also exploited multiple silhouettes and not a rigid army of women; and created shoes like slippers and tailoring to be slouchy.
FNW: Do you hope to show next February?
JMcC: I don’t think it’s really going to happen, given the numbers right now and that next February it will be freezing cold again. I think we realized we could be a little more fluid with our approach. We might explore another medium next time.
FNW: What was the brief when making your lookbook?
LH: The principles of the collection – long lasting clothes. Not timeless, more foreverness. Not disposable.
JMcC: That led to the book, since after living our lives on Zoom we didn’t want just another video asset. We did see some great fashion videos, but halfway through you get a call and put them on pause and then fast-forward. And then they disappear through the ether.
LH: We wanted to re-engage with the printed page. To take us away from the digital world.
FNW: What was the goal of the book, Proenza Schouler New York 2020?
LH: A celebration of our city New York. An archetypical Proenza Schouler woman and placing our clothes in our city. Giving back to New York and saying how beautiful it is.
JMcC: It’s a love letter to NYC. We asked our friend Daniel Shea, who shoots a lot of architecture and that made him the perfect person. We commissioned him for a month. He shot the buildings first and then the girls in a studio and then around the city. We didn’t want any words and just images – a collage from sunrise to sunset. A day in the life of any woman.
FNW: How has the company been doing?
LH: We thought this crisis would be a bigger bust. But instead our pretty robust e-com business sort of balanced out the decline in store sales – like in our Soho store, which is largely closed. But our online biz is up double digits, so it could have been worse.
FNW: How do you feel about the election?
LH: A great sense of relief.
JMcC: Let’s just pray that the Republicans don’t try to steal the victory.
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