Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler
It’s safe to say that the Proenza Schouler boys, aka Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, are the hottest design duo to come out of New York in a long time. Aside from their strong celebrity following (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, Kirsten Dunst, Florence Welch, the list is endless…), they have injected the American fashion scene with a cool new look that is urban yet luxurious and tailored.
Partners in both work and life, the duo met while studying at Parsons in New York although they come from completely different backgrounds. Lazaro is Cuban and grew up in Miami, while Jack was born in Tokyo before moving to New Jersey.
The boys were in Hong Kong earlier this week as guests of Lane Crawford, where they have been selling their collection since the beginning. Although they are avid travellers (they were in Los Angeles and Fiji before Hong Kong) it was their first trip to the city. Read on to find out more about how they started and how they came up with those covetable PS1 handbags.
Proenza Schouler Fall/Winter 2012
You guys met at Parsons and launched your label while still at college. How did that happen?
Lazaro: We were friends. Fashion school is like the movie Clueless – we had the goth kids, the punks and the girls who go shopping. It’s super cliquey. We were the grungy kids who wore dirty sneakers.
Jack: We would always do our homework together and loved to hang out. It was nice to have a sounding board. As the years went on, our aesthetics began to merge.
Lazaro: It all happened when we decided to do our senior project together – it was very unusual for two people to work on a project but our professor [Tim Gunn] encouraged us. We had a senior show and Barney’s bought the entire collection. The brand was officially launched.
What kind of fashion did you want to create?
Jack: There weren’t so many designers at the time and everything was so deconstructed, and people were ripping things up. We were interested in constructing clothes, and loved this idea of tailoring and nice finishes. We were into mid-century couture and wanted to reference mid 1940s Christian Dior.
Lazaro: Our first collection was all black and based on silhouette and form. It was super polished and everyone took notice. We didn’t want to just rip up T-shirts – we went to fashion school for a reason and wanted to show that we could construct clothes.
How has the woman you design for evolved in the past 10 years?
Lazaro: She has grown up with us. She’s cool, a bit undone and definitely not perfect. She loves design, fashion and art – especially craft. She understands luxury but it’s not a precious thing for her.
Jack: Her version of luxury is a little less stuffy. It’s more casual but she understands the craft and respects the artistry. It’s about clothes with integrity.
So how do you work together on each collection?
Jack: We do everything together, it’s really intense. When we start a new season we go away up to our farm in the country and sketch for 12 hours a day for two weeks. Once we have a big stack of drawings, the stylist comes up and we lay everything on the floor and create a run of show.
Lazaro: We surprisingly have the same ideas and most of the time the show ends up being an even split. We travel together so our set of references is sort of the same and we feed off each other. It’s usually an evolution of ideas.
Your collections during the past few seasons have become more focused. What’s changed?
Jack: We really started to nail down the girl we design for. Even though we do something new, there has been a consistent girl for the past five or six seasons, even though the collections are all so different. The attitude is the same.
Lazaro: We have our codes – the colour, the texture, fabric technology and innovation. We have honed in on those elements. The first few years it was about experimenting. We are creating something from scratch; we are not a house with heritage and history so we had to play around. Now we know what we want. Our references are life, so that’s the only thing we can take from.
Jack: That being said, we look back at some collections and think ugh. There’s one in particular – we need to get it removed from Style.com!
Your look is very New York. How do you think it translates to the rest of the world?
Lazaro: For us, we don’t see the difference in a New York designer or European designer. We grew up in such a globalised world and our references are so much more international. We don’t want to be Ralph Lauren or Donna Karan.
A sample of their best-selling accessories
So lets talk about the bags which everyone loves…
Lazaro: We held off making a bag until we felt we had something to say. It was four years ago and at the time everything was super blinged out. We wanted something anti-it bag – with no logos, no branding. And we wanted it to be slouchy. The secret of that bag was that we made it and sat on it. We didn’t feel the need to put it out there and we gave it to our friends to test it out. Our latest is the PS13 – we have had people testing it and it will hit stores in November.
What are the must-have pieces for fall?
Jack: Any of the woven leather pieces and the big, baggy pants. I love all the textures. We were just in Bhutan before that show and we were hiking and saw all these beautiful baskets which inspired the jackets.
So what are your plans for Asia?
Jack: We have been working with Lane Crawford for ages so we wanted to show them some support. We are also heading to Beijing. The plan is to eventually open stores here but we are sussing it out right now. Expansion into Asia is our next step.
What would you be if you weren’t in fashion?
Jack: A cook in a restaurant.
Lazaro: An interior designer.
Proenza Schouler is available exclusively at Lane Crawford. www.proenzaschouler.com