Vibrant fluoro skivvies with loose boardshorts; heavily beaded shimmy dresses, perforated leather tank tops and an awesome pair of anorak sleeves to tie around our waists: this season the power duo behind Proenza Schouler has us trolling the streets as pretty damn cool and sexy surfer girls. RUSSH catches up with designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough to find out about the art of hanging around, the beauty of floating men and the impossibility of convincing someone to like a colour they may just not like.
A mind-blowing fusion of old-world tailoring, surf and skate references and an array of tropical underwater prints in green, turquoise, yellow, purple and Nemo blue - Proenza Schouler’s Spring/Summer 2010 collection was simply beautiful. Dividing their time between their studio (a big Soho loft), their New York apartment (a little brownstone) and their big country house (an old colonial cottage from the 1700s: “tackling the kitchen is our next plan, it’s a disaster”), Jack and Lazaro love rocking different worlds. Take a look at their “schizophrenic” iPod: “Sonic Youth, The Cure, Joy Division, The Smiths, Public Image Ltd. and a whole lot of classical music”.
On a personal level? “We’re pretty mellow. We just like hanging out in the country with our dogs [Jojo and Buster].” Recently adding killer shoes and the must-have PS1 bags to their high-end line of women’s apparel, these guys don’t look like they’re about to slow down any time soon.
RUSSH: Guys, I’m still in awe. Your last show was so knock-out beautiful. What were you driven by?
Lazaro Hernandez: Thanks! We wanted to go back to a lot of the influences that we had as teenagers growing up. We were looking at skateboards, skateboard graphics and these beautiful images by Glen Friedman, who documented the Californian skate culture scene in the 70s and 80s.
Jack McCollough: In combination with that we were inspired by a trip we took to Bora Bora in Tahiti – all those fish, colours, textures and this hazy underwater natural world – it was such a sparkling trip. We developed fabrics based on repeated and reflected tropical fish prints and then we had them chintzed so they became all glossy.
At the same time there was a real slouch and ease to everything.
LH: It was a mix of skate culture, surfing, waves, beach, fish and underwater stuff. Our collections are always the accumulation of a half a year of personal experiences. If you want to know anything about us, have a look at our collections and you’ll know what we’ve been doing for the past six months [laughs].
What are you up to right now?
LH: Well, we’re out here in our country house in Massachusetts – a cool old farm with cows, sheep, chickens and goats. It’s our drawing week – our favourite part of the season. We come up here and draw for eight days straight. We have all our inspiration and research laid out and then we just jam it all out.
JM: After that we go back to New York and things start to evolve. It’s nice because certain parts of our job allow us not to be in an office. This is a good place to just turn the phones off and concentrate and…
And do interviews with people like me…
LH: Yeah exactly [laughs]. But in the city it’s just non-stop phone ringing and e-mails and people asking us a million questions. Here, we’re kind of in our own world. We were just in the woods taking a walk and then we looked at the time and we were like, ‘crap we have to run back to the house to talk to you’. We’re just hanging around, exploring, dreaming...
What are some of the things you’re dreaming of right now?
LH: It’s really preliminary. We just started drawing two days ago. But it’s going to be a continuation from the last season. We’re playing with codes of Americana, the sport influence might continue and the silhouette maybe.
JM: But, it’s going to completely change by the time you see it on the runway. We always start off with a couple of basic feelings and ideas. We try not to research too much in that one direction and just let our imagination go.
Do you always work together?
LH: We do everything together. It’s definitely a 50/50 collaboration.
Is there anything that drives you nuts about each other?
LH: Sometimes it gets frustrating that we always have to agree on every little thing to get something done.
JM: We’re constantly in dialogue, we make every single decision together. They’re not decisions you can assume or back up.
They’re all subjective, there’s no right, no wrong. Sometimes it’s hard to convince someone to like a certain colour, if they might just not like the colour.
Could you imagine doing your own thing without each other?
JM: We have very different aesthetics, but it’s the combination of our two worlds that make Proenza Schouler what it is. The label wouldn’t exist without one of us. But to be honest, when we graduated we thought we were going to go out and just get a job somewhere. It was never really our plan to start a label. But then we got introduced to Julie Gilhart from Barney’s and they ended up buying our senior collection. So we were just kind of letting things happen.
What actually got both of you into fashion in the first place?
LH: I grew up in Miami and instead of going to sports after school, I would go to my mom’s beauty salon with all the ladies. Out of boredom I’d pick up Vogue, Bazaar, Elle and all that and just stare at these images of a world I thought existed only in magazines. It was a bit like when you see a movie and you’re like, ‘It’s a movie, it doesn’t really exist.’ You know, growing up in Miami, you don’t dream of becoming a designer. It’s not one of the options [laughs]. When I was 17 after high school I went to New York for two days and realised that fashion was actually something that existed. I was studying pre-medicine at the University of Miami to go to medical school and then I applied for Parson’s. I got accepted, dropped everything, went to New York, met Jack and here I am today.
JM: I never wanted to be like a doctor or a veterinarian [laughs]. I went to an art high school in Massachusetts, outside of Boston. It was painting and sculpture every day from one ‘til six pm. Then I went to college at the San Francisco Art Institute to do a glass blowing major [laughs] and then I transferred to Parson’s in New York because I wanted to move back to the east coast and I somehow ended up in the fashion department, where Lazaro and I literally sat down next to each other on the first day of class.
When did you realise you worked well together?
JM: We were put into the same section, so we immediately had every single class together. We started hanging out and doing our homework at each other’s places. He’d be doing his projects and I’d be doing mine, but we’d always feel like talking about our work and asking each other for advice. We just became good friends.
LH: When we commenced college, all the downtown people were deconstructing and ripping up clothes. We found the idea of construction and tailoring interesting – constructing things as opposed to deconstructing things. We’ve always been interested in this old world opulence and designers that were really constructing clothes, making beautiful tailored shapes. The Dior’s and the Balenciaga’s were big inspirations to us. But through our eyes, having grown up in the 90s and the generation of grunge, there was always a kind of nonchalance and something a bit rough around the edges to our attitude.
Is there a specific woman you have in mind when designing?
JM: We don’t have a muse we look to for inspiration. It’s a little more abstract than that. We take bits and pieces from our friends and things we see. Maybe it’s not even a person, maybe it’s just a feeling or a painting or the combination of everything that comes together and creates what it is. We always say: ‘If we were to wear the clothes, what would we want to wear?’
Have you ever thought about doing a men’s line?
JM: Not really. It’s such a fine line. We enjoy some men’s fashion, but being guys, maybe it just becomes too personal. With women’s, we’re separated from it enough to see it in a more fantastical kind of way. I mean, it’s something we’d be open to, but we wear T-shirts, jeans and corduroys every day. So surely it would just be more geared towards practical basics and less about fashion.
What kind of stuff do you like to spend your money on, if not on fashion?
JM: [Laughs] Well, we have this house up here and all our money disappears into this house. It’s like owning a money pet… But we’re collecting art.
LH: We’re really into contemporary art. It sounds kind of cheesy. But we’re much more interested in the art world than in the fashion world. We just came from Robert Longo’s studio last week. He does all these pictures of guys in suits in black and white and they’re kind of in the air floating. He’s incredible. And the archives at the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation are so beautiful and inspiring. We’re into that early 80s, late 70s kind of downtown New York art.
What are some next plans for your label?
JM: Our next dream is definitely to open our own flagship store in the next couple of years so we can really express what the brand is about.
Great! Good luck with all your future endeavours and thanks so much for your time!
LH: Thank you! It was nice to talk to you.
JM: Yeah, it was good chatting with you. We’re going to get back to drawing now.