On Friday evening, the Apple Store in SoHo concluded its New York Fashion Week “Fashion in Conversation” series with the influential Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler. The designer duo spoke with British creative director and producer Kinvara Balfour about their collaborative creative process, one that has caused some bumps along the road dating back to their days as students at Parsons. The two even had to convince Tim Gunn (then the Dean of Students, before “he was all fabulous and famous”) to allow them to design their senior thesis together.
“We started to go out on interviews but it was weird because we had this joint portfolio,” said Hernandez. “We actually went on one interview together. And the person interviewing us was like, ‘Wait, I don’t understand. We have to hire the both of you?’ And I remember that very moment after we left — I said, ‘How is this going to work? We should start our own thing.’”
For the past decade, the two designers have managed to work as a pair, usually bringing contrasting references and ideas to the table for a single collection. “Our most successful collections, we think, are the ones where we approach the situation from two completely different points of view and we find this middle ground,” explained Hernandez. “Sometimes it’s difficult to reach that middle ground, but once we do, we believe that the results are stronger than any of our individual starting points.”
But it’s Proenza Schouler’s seamless ability to fuse their craft with technological innovation, specifically in regard to textiles, that serves as a winning combination. “A lot of seasons, especially lately, we develop all of our fabrics completely custom from scratch,” said McCollough. “We work with a number of fabric mills on developing and creating new techniques.”
Take, for example, pre-fall 2014’s “flocked velvet” and a foam-filled material that expands to create a lace effect from last year’s fall collection. “That’s the future of fashion for us. It’s amazing what you can do with technology now,” declared Hernandez. “At the end of the day, the body has two arms and two legs and has a very specific sort of shape. So we’re having a lot of fun with technology to create these modern fabrics and then cutting them into traditional, beautiful clothes.”