Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Watch the Runway: Proenza Schouler F/W 08

    Fashion Week has been whirling around us in a fervor and only now am I getting my lazy ass around to actually collecting my thoughts about everything. And what better way to start than with, honestly, one of the best showings of any designer this season: Proenza Schouler Fall '08.

     First things first. It's "School-er". Not "Shoe-ler".

     Now that we've gotten the introductions done with, I can properly begin adulating to the gods that are Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. With the huge cash injection that Proenza Schouler received from the Valentino Fashion Group, the two Parsons grads have been able to go into more conceptual directions with their collection. The meticulous tailoring that we've come to expect out of Proenza Schouler was used to particular effect, creating looks that simultaneously played up and down the body's proportions.

     Pleats and ruffles and bows, usually the domain of the girly and flirty, became expanding symbols of feminine power and self-assertion when used on bright metallic fabrics. The sharp construction transformed soft drapery into solid angles and outerwear was turned inside out (literally) as the duo experimented with what we expect "tailored" design to look like. I especially loved the layering of textures: never have sequins looked so refined. I used to associate them with cheap hookers, but I think the folks at Proenza Schouler certainly kicked the sophistication up a notch.

     The styling was aces. The shoes were a classic pump given new height and new boldness in all-over suede (I think?) or croc in a variety of colors. While I loved the pink and yellow pumps, the chocolate croc one definitely takes the prize for being eminently wearable and deviously stylish. In terms of proportions, there was a definite dichotomy between ruffled dresses and shifts paired with tights and generously cut trousers that billowed with great volume. The trousers were put with sequin-covered tops and cinched by skinny belts and given a great big dash of drama with coats that dripped and drooped under the impressive weight of such minute construction.

     A definite trend that's been emerging this season has been texture, especially in the more monochromatic collections. But instead of playing purely with color or purely with texture, the boys at Proenza Schouler managed to incorporate both without overwhelming the senses. The sense of careful editing is evident through the entire collection. It's easy to see where some sleeves could have ballooned out of control, some ruffles could have spiraled into fashion satire, but a steady eye keeps the silhouettes chic and reasonable, even while they set new precedents.

     Admittedly, this isn't nearly as wearable as any of their previous collections, but that's a good thing. Now that McCollough and Hernandez have been freed from their previous budgetary restrictions, hopefully they'll continue to push the envelope for womenswear. Ultimately, the reason why I (and everybody else) love Proenza Schouler is that no matter what design inspiration they tap, they always strive to answer a very difficult question about fashion: How do you stay chic and sane when you want to break every rule?

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