As hard as it is to crack into the fashion industry, it can be even harder to stay there once you get to the top. Building a real business out of buzz is a hurdle very few designers have cleared.
Intimately familiar with those challenges are Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler. Becoming near-instant wunderkinds when New York City retail institution Barneys New York (a recent victim to industry churn) bought their Parsons senior project, the brand hit the scene running in 2002, gobbling up industry acclaim and moderate financial success with their PS1 bag before stumbling over all the usual roadblocks — a journey chronicled this week in a profile by Business of Fashion's Lauren Sherman.
But, after buying their company back in 2018, the duo was able to refocus their vision for the brand, an effort which has become clearer and clearer on the runway every season. You don't have to know the ins and outs of their behind-the-scenes business to see that they know, without a doubt, who their customer is and what they want.
That much was obvious at the label's Spring 2022 show back in September, which felt, in a way, like it was raising an already very high bar for the duo — one they surpassed with ease for Fall 2022. In a pared-back showing of some 30-plus looks, Hernandez and McCollough presented clothes which carry all their usual artistic sensibility — animal prints with shocks of negative space shot through, tactical elements like tearaway snaps and waist ties anchoring billowing and ruched fabrics, architectural folding and sculpting — with wearable silhouettes.
"We're blurring a line on what's a showpiece, what's a commercial piece," McCollough told BoF. "You can't tell what was shown, what was not shown. That's a part of the puzzle that we love now."
The pieces all fit together, whether its a bugle-beaded turtleneck in a periwinkle blue paired with a black-and-brown maxi skirt, or a sleek black button-down cut away to reveal a cheeky leopard lining. And even the most simple pieces, like a coat with a wide furry collar, feel special; these are clothes for women who know what they want and are ready to invest in it, who don't care what trends are in and which are out.
(This would be a good place to add that it would be nice to see Proenza Schouler expand what that customer looks like in terms of sizing; there are plus-sized women just as ready to spend money on their vision as the sample-sized types who currently fill their runway and front row rosters.)
Maybe Proenza Schouler won't ever be as big as some of its European counterparts — but really, in today's economy, that might just be a good thing. Hernandez and McCollough have a devoted customer base, and they're proving they still have the It Factor to keep the industry's attention two decades into their career.
See the complete Proenza Schouler Fall 2022 collection in the gallery below: