August 20 2014

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Exclusive: Proenza Schouler Breaks Language, Fashion Barriers In Florence


UPDATE: While the rains continued in New York, the weather held for Proenza Schouler’s multipart Pitti W happening in Florence, Italy, and despite being taken over by the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, the Villa Petraia’s sixteenth-century gardens remained happily intact. “This is the crown jewel of Medici villas,” said Jack McCollough. “[And that’s saying a lot] as they are like Starbucks in Italy.” Among the New York imports helping him and his partner Lazaro Hernandez “export a slice of Americana overseas” were Yvonne Force Villareal and Bee Shaffer, along with video stars Chloë Sevigny, Liya Kebede, and Kalup Linzy (click to watch them in action above). Waving the flag for the Brits was the indefatigable Suzy Menkes.

Click for a slideshow of the party pictures >

The Proenza Schouler show is one of New York fashion week’s hottest tickets, and tonight that sense of anticipation goes international, as Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough unveil their Spring ’10 pre-collection at Pitti W in Florence. For their debut on the world stage, Hernandez and McCollough say they want to “up the ante”—and they’re not kidding. Far from a run-of-the-mill runway show, the event will feature a performance by Kembra Pfahler, in the guise of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, an installation by sculptor Haim Steinbach, and a video by the soap-spoofing, drag-wearing, stardom-bound performance artist Kalup Linzy (with a cameo by a bewigged Chloë Sevigny). We’re posting the video exclusively here, though fair warning: If this song were ever released as a single, it would have one of those “Explicit Lyrics” stickers.

Watch the video >

Read our review of Proenza Schouler’s Spring 2010 pre-collection >

This is your first time showing a collection in Europe. What made you decide to debut with a multimedia extravaganza?

Lazaro Hernandez: When the Pitti people asked us to show the pre-collection, we were a little skeptical at first. I mean, pre-collections are sales-driven—

Jack McCollough: Not the most fantastic, editorial thing.

LH: Which is great, because that allows us to be more directional on the runway. But we felt like, just showing the pre-collection clothes would be pretty underwhelming. We needed to up the ante.

JM: Especially because this is the first time we’re showing in Europe. It’s not like we’re unknown over there, but Pitti has a different reach. And it would kind of suck if people walked away from our presentation like, yawn.

LH: And we’ve always been interested in art, so…
How did you choose the artists?

JM: Well, right off the bat, we went to Yvonne Force Villareal and the Art Production Fund and we said, we want artists.

LH: It was a brainstorming process. We were looking for artists whose work relates to what we do, in some way, and obviously, we wanted to collaborate with people who are interested in working with product. Because not every artist is into that. So we wound up with this list of maybe 15 artists that we whittled down to Kembra, Haim, and Kalup.

JM: We liked their proposals, and we liked the fact they all bring something completely different—different mediums, different sensibilities. It’s been interesting, trying to put all the pieces together.

LH: The overarching thing was that we wanted the presentation to be really American. And to put across some of that “American” diversity. I mean, Kalup’s from central Florida; Kembra’s very New York, old punk, but also has a California-y vibe, like, her dad was a big-wave surfer; and Haim’s more like that minimalist, American seventies kind of artist. And it’s kind of like, these different aspects of American culture come together—

JM: And make us.
Sorry, I just got a little distracted by the fact that Kalup Linzy is from central Florida. That’s where I grew up.

LH: Really? It’s super-weird there. I love those seedy tourist places they used to have over by Disney—like, the mermaid places.

JM: What’s that one in Religulous? I just watched that.
Bible Land?

JM: Yeah! Bible Land!
Actually, I think it’s called something else—Holy Land. Something like that.

JM: So bizarre. They stage crucifixions every day.
Which leads me back to the question: How can you possibly convey the utter strangeness of America to a bunch of Europeans?

LH: Send them to Florida. That would do it.
Anyway, I’m not too familiar with Kalup’s work. Do tell.

JM: You should check out his show at the Studio Museum in Harlem. We went to see it, on Yvonne’s recommendation, and it was really…enjoyable, actually. Fun.

LH: He grew up watching soaps with his grandma—in Florida—and he does all these weird takes on them.

JM: Like, he has this one video called All My Churen.

LH: Some of the parts he performs, but even when there’s a different actor, they’re lip-synching his voice.

JM: We just found his videos really hysterical. And also, from the perspective of collaborating on this Pitti event, his work was interesting because there are all these characters and costumes.

LH: He gets into “looks.”

JM: Not necessarily our look—

LH: No! It’s not our look—

JM: But the wardrobe is a huge part of it. And for Pitti, we got Chloë Sevigny involved. She’s one of the characters who will be lip-synching Kalup’s voice, in our clothes.

LH: There are a lot of people in it. Our friends, art, fashion people.
Are you in it?

JM: No, we’re kind of hovering over. We wanted to let the artists do their own thing.
Did the experience of collaborating with these artists wind up influencing the collection?

LH: No, we had a sense of where we were going. Pre-collection is always the first step toward Spring. So, we had our own thing and people were invited to come along for the ride.

JM: It has been nice, though, to get away from what we’re used to doing. I mean, doing fittings on Kalup, who’s a six-foot-tall black man—

LH: That’s an interesting change of pace. And it’s interesting, too, just to pull some other kinds of creative people into our process. I mean, the people we’re always working with, and a lot of our friends, are stylists, editors, photographers…

JM: It gets very insular in that way.
What should people expect in terms of the clothes?

LH: We took a trip to Tahiti, and that really inspired a whole exploration of early-fifties surf culture.

JM: We wanted to conjure some of that sense of escape. And freedom. For the colors, especially. Lots of washed out, beachy tones…

LH: We both grew up on surf culture and skate culture. It’s very much part of our DNA. Up to now we’ve only touched upon that lightly in our work, but this time we’re really going for it.
A lot of your collections seem to have a travel inspiration.

JM: Yeah, when we finish a show we go away, and that trip usually winds up being the spark for the next season. Not directly—I think we try to avoid the places where the inspiration would be too on-the-surface, in fact.

LH: Like, it would be dangerous to go to Japan. It’s too tempting to come back thinking—geisha!
Where are you headed next?

LH: Not sure. We’re staying in Italy, working, after Pitti, and then back here to get ready for the Spring show…

JM: We’ll think of something.
Bible Land!

LH: Yes! Next time we should go to Bible Land!

JM: I think visiting Bible Land would take you to a really dark place.
I don’t want to be held responsible for the Proenza Schouler “Bible Land” collection. That could be a brand killer.

JM: I’m not saying it wouldn’t be inspiring…

LH: The problem, really, is that we’re easily inspired.