Last season saw Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough looking backward. Fall finds them looking forward with a collection that had its genesis in the idea of protection. The designers were vague backstage about what got them interested in the notion, but it doesn't matter. This was a daring show, in which they proposed new silhouettes, recommitted to the artisanal tendencies that have become a brand hallmark, and headed East for inspiration—think karate, kimonos, and Yoko Ono. Mrs. John Lennon circa 1970 provided the screeching soundtrack. "It's Asian," said Hernandez, describing the collection's look, "but in a New York way."

The designers opened with a series of boxy collared shirts that snapped closed at one shoulder and loose-fitting pleated trousers. Oversize is a look we've seen elsewhere this season, but Proenza Schouler has made it official—it's a trend. The tops and pants came in stiff white cottons, like karate gis, or in waxy black leather. Leather was a major element, and the way the designers worked it—by weaving thin strips of navy, black, and white, say, into a tiny grid for a side-zip jacket—was astounding. The handwork was equally impressive on a pair of quilted-satin varsity jackets embroidered with pheasants on the chest; ditto for the woven paillette skirts with which they were paired. Jack and Lazaro also endorsed brocade, another NYC undercurrent, for long-sleeve dresses that, with their complex construction, looked like jackets and flippy miniskirts.

The remarkable thing about the show was its evolution. Those scaled-up jackets and trousers at the beginning will be challenging to retailers. But by the end, the quilted-satin cocktail dresses with the bird embellishments (a callback to Hernandez and McCollough's breakthrough Spring 2010 collection) had the crowd raving. Their confidence is persuasive, and so is their skill.