"Work it," Missy Elliott rapped on Michel Gaubert's soundtrack. It was a fitting song on at least a couple of levels. For one, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez appeared to have taken direct inspiration from building insulation for their substantial jacquards and rich, multilayered prints. Their invitations wedged insulation foam between two cardboard rectangles. For another, the Proenza Schouler boys were just plain working it tonight. Those spongy jacquards naturally led to sculptural shapes, and their jackets were cut with generous couture volumes: rounded shoulders, full sleeves, hourglass waist, and flaring hips. Ambitious, grown-up stuff. And perhaps a bit risky, as well. Last season, some of their materials felt a bit stiff. Crucially, here they paired their jackets with simple below-the-knee skirts or tapering trousers and flat lug-sole shoes to keep the look young and modern, and on-brand.
"It's about energy, humor, and speed," Hernandez said amid the backstage crush. "We didn't overthink it; we said, 'Let's have fun.'" Building materials didn't come up, but they did mention that an installation of ceramist Ron Nagle's work at the Venice Biennale was an inspiration point. "It got us on this whole trip," they added. "Trippy" isn't a bad word for a look that combined a crackle-print jacket in orange and black, a speckle-print tunic in acid yellow, and a peachy psychedelic wood-grain miniskirt. Dresses were put together like puzzles from geometric slices of leather and solid and printed wool crepe. Much of New York has gone subdued; monochrome has ruled this week. But not at Proenza Schouler. Molded leather motocross jackets were the rare pieces that didn't have patterns of one kind or another on them.
True, some of the other fabrics will require modification before they hit the sales floor; only a Proenza fan will go for those insulation jacquards. But there was an enlivening sense of experimentation and play here, not to mention a singular point of view. Nearing the end of a long week of shows, it was exactly the jolt we all were waiting for.