Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, the prominent duo behind New York based mega-brand Proenza Schouler, thankfully insist on embracing their roots. The label’s name, after all, is composed of their mothers’ maiden names.
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For autumn/winter 12 Jack and Lazaro reached out to Bhutan and Japan for inspiration but, as they reminded us, not without their secret ingredient, New York. Having already won four awards at the CFDA, the pair were recently and rightly nominated for the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award, which will be announced during June’s ceremony. The elegant ease of their partnership continues to surprise and reinvigorate the American fashion landscape and they just keep getting better. i-D online thought it was high time we spoke to the boys, so while Fashion Editor Caroline Newell picked her favourite looks from autumn/winter 12, Michael Kowalinski asked Lazaro and Jack about dreams, working together and the importance of doing your own thing.
Tell me about the influence of Bhutan and Japan in this collection… After every collection we need to get out of town, the further away and the longer the trip the better. This last one was probably our wildest one yet. One of us said to the other, why don’t we just try to take a hike through the Himalayas? We were in Paris and it seemed pretty close so we just ended up in Nepal. While there, some people we met were telling us that the king of Bhutan was getting married in a few days and that we should check it out if we were around so we packed our bags and ended up in Bhutan with a Sherpa guide. It was magical. There was no way that kind of beauty wasn’t about to influence us. Back at the studio, everything Asian started to really appeal to us so yeah, there were Japanese influences, Chinese, Korean, etc in the collection. And, of course, a little New York.
What is the dynamic in the studio working as a duo? How does it affect you? It’s intense and it’s unlike anything either of us has experienced. The magic happens when we’re both firing off at full speed. Either one of us alone wouldn’t be much good, we don’t think. We’re lucky we have each other. It’s not easy, but nothing worth anything in life ever is, so we tough it out and are there for each other at all times. We’ve got each other’s backs.
Crocheting plastic, eel skin made to look like leather – and this season you developed brocades from scratch. Tell me about the importance and evolution of materials and techniques… We found some old sword cases in Bhutan that were made of the most beautiful brocades. We had never worked with a material like that, which is essentially woven with metal. There are all sorts of cheap brocades that are woven with lurex but we wanted the real deal, so we found a mill that would weave true metal brocades for us. The designs were all imagined in house by our genius friend Alex. We sent these drawings to the mill and worked back and forth with them until we had something we liked. There were three different colour-ways of the brocade. We wanted to make sure they weren’t mistaken for anything too traditional so if you look closely you’ll find strange evil eyes, planets and machine gears all hiding within the design. It was a pretty cool process.
You are nominated for a CFDA award for Womenswear Designer of the Year in June, having already won four. Thinking back to your first win, in 2003, how has the mood for young designers in New York changed? Yeah, that’s pretty rad that we’re nominated again. We really aren’t expecting anything that night. Not being humble here, it’s just that we can’t believe we’re nominated after winning last year. It’s nuts. We’re so thankful. It really feels so nice to be given a vote of confidence by our peers. It makes all the hard work worthwhile knowing that it isn’t going unnoticed and that people are vibing with it. Things in NY have definitely changed. There’s a bunch of new designers, which is cool. We’re sort of the middle aged, old guys now. We’re all friends and we all see each other at parties and stuff. There’s always something going on. Everyone’s doing their own thing.
You’ve often talked about a new kind of rebellion in fashion, for example, prim, ladylike dressing in a room full of leather biker jackets and torn jeans. What is the new rebellion? Who knows? Doing your own thing maybe? Not really caring what other people are doing? We try to stay under the radar as much as possible. Trying too hard to be rebellious doesn’t really interest us these days. We just sort of do our own thing and if people think it’s rebellious, that’s cool, or if they think it’s totally normal and mainstream, that’s cool too.
What haven’t you done, professionally and personally, that you would like to do this year? Opening a store is finally happening this summer. We’ve been working on it for a while. We’re working with this pretty amazing British architect. It’ll be great to really see all of our stuff in one place, unedited. We’ve never had the chance to really show people what the Proenza world looks like outside of the shows. Stores we sell to usually edit the collection down but in our own store, you’ll be able to find everything we make including runway stuff. We’re psyched. It’s a new chapter.
Text: Michael Kowalinski
Catwalk images: Mitchell Sams
Portraits with Kate Bosworth: Photography Terry Richardson. Styling Mel Ottenberg, September 2007.
Final image: Photography Tesh. Fashion Direction Edward Enninful, October 2004.