After a phase of exploring Europe, the Proenza boys, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, are firmly back on American soil – ideologically and physically speaking. This season’s was their second show back on the New York Fashion Week schedule after a brief tryst where they moved to the haute couture shows in Paris. That, done as an experiment at adjusting production, showing, and delivery dates, seems to have resulted in them returning to the tried and tested. Now that nearly everyone is off the see-now-buy-now high, bar Ralph Lauren (an institution unto itself), can we admit that that was a bout of hysteria?
Nevertheless, this was a strong show. The strength of American fashion at the peaks the Proenza boys are working at, is always sheer desirability. Calvin Klein and his like were geniuses not for conceptual conceits or pretense: they simply made clothing that girded women in a way that fit the times.
A strength of the collection, as it opened, were the tailored pieces. The Proenza Schouler silhouette seems to be less dramatically elongated now, and has a reassuring stoutness to it. The shoulders are broader, the trousers wider, the proportions more generous. It made the women look strong, as if the trope of tailored suits on women had no longer a need to fall into a Le Smoking kind of sexiness. The suits meant business, and the classicism combined with some modernist twists in construction gave them a present-perfect polish.
Another promising development this season were the knit dresses. For a fall season, that staple of the brand took on much-appreciated lightness. Those silhouettes - often ribbed, cut close to the body, and heavily decorated - used to be too easily bogged down by their details, be it overwrought fabric treatments or embellishments. This time, they had a weightless quality. The colours, too, were smartly chosen to reflect a range of moods: comfort, sexiness, sportiness, futurism, etc.
Proenza Schouler has undergone a bit of a change in leadership in recent months. The company bought itself back from the investors Castanea Partners, and has had a C-suite reshuffle. So: new CEO, CFO, COO and, following store closings, presumably a new strategy. If the fashion is any reflection, it seems that the brand is hunkering down indulgences of grandeur and focusing instead on selling. That ugly, old idea, but one that cannot be ignored when you acknowledge the success the PS1 hit bag brought the company when it launched in 2008. 11 years on, their aim is righting itself, and while a hit bag is often alchemic happenstance, the fashion they do have control over is certainly at its strongest.