ABOVE: LAZARO HERNANDEZ, KATE BOSWORTH, AND JACK MCCOLLOUGH. IMAGE COURTESY OF ANGELA PHAM/BFANYC.COM
Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez made fashion history in 2002 when Barneys bought their entire Parsons senior thesis collection, which would become the first Proenza Schouler collection. Last night, Proenza Schouler graduated to its first store of its own—on Madison Avenue and 69th, no less—where their neighbors include Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Tom Ford, Cartier, and Prada. Valentino (whose parent company owns a 45% share of Proenza Schouler) will be opening a flagship store across the street.
The label, which is synonymous with downtown chic, surprised the fashion world by opening an uptown store, but flipping the script is actually the essence of Proenza Schouler. "Proenza is so much about contrasts," McCollough said last night. "It's kind of the reason we wanted to come up to Madison Avenue. Everyone expected a downtown store so we thought, kind of bring it uptown but as an antithesis of the usual hyper-glossy Madison store."
The distinguishing features of the store, designed by architect David Adjaye, are the earthy concrete stairs and broad wooden ceiling beams. "We wanted a space that's a bit rough around the edges but polished at the same time," said McCollough. "It's the same contrast in our clothes, of something that's flawlessly made but worn in a nonchalant, undone way."
The designers were likewise casual last night, both wearing jeans and loose blue shirts, with McCollough sporting Adidas Samba kicks. We wondered if the designers' weekend house in the Berkshires inspired the barn-like beams. "We're outdoorsy," said Hernandez. "We like a little wood."
McCollough, who lives in the West Village, and Hernandez, a Chelsea resident, are considering next opening a store in Soho. "Nothing's been finalized yet, but we're talking about it," said Hernandez. "We have to find the right space."
Proenza Schouler is named for the duo's mothers' maiden names (Proenza is Hernandez's mother and Schouler is McCollough's). The Proenza Schouler girl, said Hernandez, "appreciates fashion, likes design and has a new definition of designer"—girls like clients Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dakota Fanning, Chloë Sevigny and the recently engaged Kate Bosworth, who visited the store last night with her fiancé, director Michael Polish. Gia Coppola and Rachel Zoe also stopped by to congratulate their friends.
"They are devoted to what they do and work tirelessly on their collection," said Zoe of McCollough and Hernandez. "They're innovative and don't follow the rules, ever. It's always unexpected. They're about breaking down walls, a fresh perspective for the young fashionista. I love that."
Zoe, stunning in a self-designed midnight blue column gown, is in town for her September '12 runway show. She gave us a sneak peek of her new collection: "Fresh and easy, nothing too complicated. Tomboy but feminine."
As for what we can expect of Proenza Schouler's upcoming S/S 2103 runway, Hernandez said, "Color. Lots of it." McCollough described it as "a bit collaged."
We asked Hernandez about their collaborative process. "We draw next to each other all day long," said Hernandez. He explained that sometimes they have conflicting ideas. "Some of the stronger collections are born of that. They're a little more multi-layered and complex and less referential. I think the merging of two ideas creates something a little more abstract and new-looking. Instead of being on the same page, it comes across as thematic."
Though the brand will still be available at the likes of Barneys, Bergdorf, and Saks, establishing their own space enabled the designers to present a collection in its entirety, including Fall 2012's luscious brocades, buttery basketweave leathers, signature PS1 satchel, asymmetric jackets, and wide trousers, which are reminiscent of Japanese designers from the '80s. "Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo were the two designers who I think we were inspired by or referenced the most," said Hernandez.
Their current influences include music and travel. "We're going to China for work in October, said McCollough, "so we'll maybe tack on a little trip to Mongolia." For Hernandez, "I'm really into the computer these days; I live on my computer. Especially music blogs and art blogs, not institutional things." In addition to flatscreen footage of their runway shows, the store features an anime video of their collections, with avatars created by Jack's sister, Kate.
For McCollough, "Music is a huge component of my life. I listen to a mix of things, from John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas to newer people, like this girl from Kuwait named Fatima Al Qadiri who does insane techno. I'm a little crazy with the music shopping. I've got like 20,000 songs in my iTunes library."
Ford model Hanne Gaby Odiele, who has walked in their shows, said last night, "I've known them a long time. They're fun, crazy and super creative."