Seeing the Proenza Schouler show last night in New York was a bit like receiving an electric shock – but in a good way. The sheer force of energy in design, the strength in execution and the models pounding out to the heavy thud-thud-thud of the music was transporting.
While it has been a strong New York season on the whole, with the city’s most directional names honing down their best bits and delivering instantly memorable and ultimately saleable ‘looks’, this was different. It didn’t feel as if sales and an easy take-away image were their highest priority. It felt as if Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez were out to say something. Big. Whatever the cost.
Instinct told them to send out a set of stiff white outfits – boxy shouldered jackets and wide trousers in heavy cotton pique that stood away from the body – and it was a good surprise to start on. Next up, the lacquered woven leather pieces – some in crimson or cobalt were as dense as a wicker basket, others like the black leather cape through which you could see the outfit beneath was more like a bird cage. Then came the panoply of textures with a Japanesey-ethnic-Indian mash-up of sheeny silk shantung quilted jackets, mirrored skirts, jacquards of Japanese blossoms, embroideries of birds of paradise. This could have rambled on haphazardly but every outfit was a measure of their tightly edited control. It certainly helped that every look was anchored by a pair of rigid black boots or stomping heeled shoes.
Some might say, ‘But, oh, it looked like a bit of this and a bit of that’, but tell me a designer who hasn’t looked at Balenciaga in the last five years! No, this was fresh because of the way they mixed shapes, volume and proportion. It felt properly new. And, in New York, that is rare.