The Proenza Schouler boys have been in a contemplative mood.
“We’ve been going to bed at 8:30 p.m., not drinking, obsessing over every little detail of this collection and driving everyone crazy,” Lazaro Hernandez said with a laugh during a preview of the spring 2024 collection.
Turns out, like many of us surely, they’ve been ruminating over the state of art and commerce as it relates to all aspects of culture, but particularly fashion. For the duo, who came up through Parsons, with 20 years in business under their belt, it’s personal. But it’s also a wider industry conversation about designers who haven’t necessarily been trained but are hired because of their value in garnering attention, about the revival of brands selling merch more than new ideas, and on and on.
“It makes us sad,” Jack McCollough admitted. “We’re creative souls, and somehow we’ve put our blood, sweat and tears into this and managed to survive and have a thriving business with 100 people. Clothes have to be commercial, but for our soul they have to be artful and hopeful, too. So it’s trying to find that balance.”
They found it Saturday afternoon in their terrific spring collection with lots of lightweight fabrics and convertibility, ease and sophistication, their first denim and their first logo.
They hosted their show at Phillips Auction House, a place where “creativity is jammed up against commerce and art is assessed at a value level,” as they said. And in a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun, they’re taking part in it, having created their first mark, or logo — an original painted work on paper that’s being auctioned by Phillips alongside Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin. (Bidding starts at $10,000.)
They spent two years working on their subtle mark, which is two “Ps” joined to form an “S,” and it lived throughout the collection as a gold buckle on loafers, as a belt buckle, embossed on bags and as a jacquard on sweaters.
In another concession to commerce, they reworked their hit bag the PS1 as wallet on a strap, a belt bag, and a squishy style, and put it on the runway for the first time. And they introduced PS denim, made in California, with cool-looking styles that are almost entirely bleached out, and logo front buttons, of course.
They tapped Los Angeles singer Natalie Mering of Weyes Blood to open the show, before she headed over to Madison Square Garden to perform Saturday night. “Her music is slightly Joan-y and Mary Carpenter-y. We started making costumes for her tour, which is how we got together,” said McCollough. “She represents intellect, strength and soul,” Hernandez added of their core customer.
Overall they continued their mission of wardrobe-building, starting from the very first look, a chic crisp white blazer, V-neck T and navy moleskin pant that was a spring-casual version of a suit.
It set the tone for the relaxed, utility-forward collection, full of elevated everyday pieces such as an airy white poplin shirt with drawstring hem, mesh Ts, jeans and leather pants.
A pair of weightless ruched jersey dresses in black and red hugged the body and ribbon crochet tube dresses spoke to the duo’s love of handicraft.
A filmy skirt with transparent sea green plastic shard embroideries, tied at the side with a delicate black ribbon, was easy but special with a white long-sleeve T-shirt and black flip-flops, ’90s-style. And long-sleeve sweater dresses could be worn conventionally, or as a halter dresses with the head pulled all the way through the neck hole and the sleeves tied around the shoulders.
As Hernandez explained, “It’s about how you make this simple thing understandable but conceptual.” A.k.a. interesting — that is the secret.