Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

At Proenza Schouler: Research, Technology and a World of Difference

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

At Proenza Schouler: Research, Technology and a World of Difference

Article excerpt

NEW YORK --

Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are jacked up as they talk about the handmade fabrics in their fall- winter 2012 runway collection, with its urban-warrior-trekking-the- Himalayas vibe.

And why not? It's pretty unusual stuff.

Embroidery that is a takeoff on ancient Buddhist symbols is "sick." Colorful leather biker jackets woven using a technique inspired by baskets they discovered on vacation in Bhutan are "killer." And the tiny plastic beads, which they had to develop their own molds to make, strung together to create a chain-mail effect on tunics? They're "for real."

"Silhouettes have been done, but fabric research and technology, that's the 21st century frontier. That's what's truly modern to us," Mr. Hernandez says.

After 10 years in business, the Proenza Schouler "boys" as they are still affectionately called at age 33, are among the most influential designers in American fashion, known for collections that mix arts-and-crafts techniques, such as shibori dyeing and Native American weaving, with a modern, streetwise attitude. Last month the Council of Fashion Designers of America announced that Mr. McCollough and Mr. Hernandez once again are finalists in the trade group's prestigious annual competition, a distinction that seems to be becoming routine. (This year, they are up for women's wear designer of the year and accessory designer of the year.)

And, thanks to new investors, they are entering a new phase of growth, with retail stores and an even wider range of clothing and accessories on the horizon.

They stand for luxury, but not in the old-world, European sense. It's a cool-girl luxury that resonates with those seated front row at their New York Fashion Week show in February, including budding director Gia Coppola, actress Dakota Fanning, model-designer Liya Kebede and designer Tory Burch, who said of Mr. McCollough and Mr. Hernandez, "They have a high-fashion vision with commercial appeal."

On the fall runway, they explored the idea of protection with tough-looking, oversize jackets and low-slung, wide-leg trousers in white cotton pique. Fencing, karate, judo and other fighting sports inspired the silhouettes and the padded details. Stiff wrap skirts in woven leather were worn with drapey lacquered lace tunics tucked in the front and left loose in back. …

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