proenza schouler’s flamenco-inflected career-topping spring/summer 16 collection
The New York duo are all about “creating something beautiful, and then destroying it.”
The models at last night's career-topping Proenza Schouler show walked at a formidable clip, so fast that editors struggled to capture the jaw-dropping looks on their iPhones. Backstage, designer Lazaro Hernandez said there was no specific instruction to race down the runway. "I guess they were just into it!" he said. "The girls came back and they were all excited, they felt beautiful, they were so excited by the clothes. The girls were crying backstage, it was pretty intense."
It was pretty intense out front, too. The couture-flamenco collection was a surprise of the best kind, with many agreeing that this was Lazaro and Jack McCullough's best work to date. Although headlines have been proclaiming it "Spanish", the references were a bit more abstract than that. "I'm Latin so we wanted to explore my personal history," explained Lazaro. "We've never done that. We were looking at pictures of old family, and there was a heat, a brute, a sensuality that felt so light, powerful, emotional, and sexy."
After many seasons experimenting with technology (spring/summer 15 even boasted spacecraft materials), this outing was a more old-fashioned return to dressmaking. Black and white piqué pantsuits and knit ruffled dresses had the bygone appeal of clothing that would be removed from enormous boxes tied in grosgrain ribbon. "We're going back to a traditional way of making clothes," said Jack. But lest you think it not look modern, Lazaro added, "And then when it's perfect, breaking it down. Creating something beautiful, and then destroying it."
Destruction as construction has been a hallmark of interesting fashion since Madeleine Vionnet slashed dresses on the bias. Proenza's approach for this collection was to look at the humble banana. "We were looking at bananas, and the idea of a peeling away of layers, which felt interesting," said Lazaro. In practice, this meant taking traditional white shirting and "peeling it over the shoulder, so the clothes are almost falling off the body." Dresses. shirts, and even jackets fell away from the shoulder, a new erogenous zone for the brand. Lazaro described the sensuality of the look as "the idea of unraveling, and a sense of abandonment."
Circles appeared everywhere, from cutouts on dresses to rounded earrings to the silver holes in the to-die-for pointed mule shoes. According to Lazaro, "We wanted things to breathe, and have holes. Circles were a theme, polka dots, balls and studs, pom poms. Everything circular and spherical as a formal element was really interesting to us." Metallic balls hung from latticed skirts in closing evening looks, bouncing as the girls sped by.
And those scene-stealing, flouncy feathered dresses in red, white, and black? Feather slips, created at a couture salon, through a painstaking process of joining feather quills by their individual tips to create a sort of Game of Thrones netting. So when Jack said, "We wanted to make clothes that feel really elevated," there was skin in the game.
As for what comes after a momentous collection such as this, it's back to the drawing board for Proenza Schouler. But so much of their designing is in the moment, through intuition, so it's hard to say where this defining moment will lead them. As Lazaro said, "We never leave an inspiration board up, ever. We do in the beginning, we draw, and then we tear it all up. There's no inspiration, it's just the process."
Text Rory Satran
Photography Jason Lloyd Evans