Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez answer questions about smells


When Proenza Schouler’s debut collection was bought by Barney’s in 2002, it was clear that Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez weren’t just starting a clothing line but creating an empire. Over the last decade, the designers have tackled so many items on the spectrum of style—from their signature PS1 bag to dresses covered in feathers—that it felt like there was little terrain they hadn’t covered. And as it turns out, terrain played a big part in the inspiration for the brand’s latest creation.

Arizona, Proenza Schouler’s first fragrance, debuted in January and has quickly found its way into the hands of fashion and beauty fans alike. Both the bottle, which features asymmetrical lines and imperfect indentations, and the scent, with notes like white cactus flower, jasmine, solar accord and musk, were inspired by the horizon of the Sonoran Desert of the Grand Canyon state. The eau de parfum mixes a dreamy quality with city sophistication to create a scent that comes off mysterious and familiar all at once.

We asked McCollough and Hernandez to expand their olfactory oeuvre and tell us more about their most memorable, most beloved, and most hated scents. What they revealed will surprise and satisfy you, just like everything else they do. 

AUSTEN TOSONE: What smells remind you of New York?

LAZARO HERNANDEZ: Car exhaust, cement, the office. What else?

JACK MCCOLLOUGH: Yeah, maybe just the smell of home. It’s where we live, it’s where we’re based. So you walk into our house. We’re just based in New York, the smells just remind us of it.

TOSONE: What are the scents that make you nostalgic?

MCCOLLOUGH: I think for me it’s the smell of my parents’ house. When I go back and visit them, even though it’s not the same house that I grew up in, still that smell is there. Parents smell. It just brings you back to your childhood.

HERNANDEZ: Chanel No.5, that’s what my mom used to wear in the ’80s. That always kind of takes me back to what she smelled like. Also the smell of, like, powder. She would powder herself after bathing so that always feels kind of nostalgic to me. The smell of certain foods kind of takes me back to home. It’s interesting.

TOSONE: Any particular foods?

HERNANDEZ: I always like when you pass by a restaurant and they’re cooking rice, you know that rice smell. That always takes me back to mom’s house, my dad’s house always used to smell like rice back in the day. Very kind of Latin food. Rice would always be cooking. It’s always very nostalgic to me.

TOSONE: What does falling in love smell like?

HERNANDEZ: Like skin, sweat.

TOSONE: Can you recall some of your earliest memories of smell?

MCCOLLOUGH: For me, I remember whenever I smell Japanese food. I was born in Japan, I lived there for the first five years of my life. Whenever I smell Japanese food, it actually brings me back to those moments. We ate a lot of Japanese food when we were living there. Like miso soup weirdly takes me back to my childhood. Get all these weird strange memories that pop back into my head.

HERNANDEZ: For me, I was thinking about crayons the other day. Crayons always remind me of kindergarten. Like opening up your box of crayons for the first time and experimenting with drawing for the first time. All those art supplies when you were a kid, specifically crayons. That’s such a specific smell. They always take me back to being this young kid learning how to draw.

TOSONE: Are there any smells you can’t stand?

HERNANDEZ: I mean you know, the obvious, like trash. Things like that I guess. Or car exhaust is disgusting to me.

MCCOLLOUGH: I can’t stand when you can like, smell a person before you see them. Like when the scent enters the room before they do. It’s nice when fragrances feel a little bit more subtle and you experience them only when you’re in a more intimate situation.

HERNANDEZ: Another one for me is a guy with a really intense cologne story happening. Like guys with really intense cologne. I tend to like a guy who smells a little bit more like skin. Like you smell a body more than this really kind of artificial scent coming from a man. Or sweet smelling men.

TOSONE: What does fashion week smell like?

HERNANDEZ: Blood, sweat, and tears. That’s what it smells like. Like craft services. Like catered lunches. And pizza. And coffee, it smells like coffee. Lots of coffee.

TOSONE: If you could only smell three scents for the rest of your life, which ones would you choose?

MCCOLLOUGH: The smell of Lazaro.

HERNANDEZ: The smell of Jack.

[Both laugh]

HERNANDEZ: I think the smell of the ocean. The smell of the desert. That’s three.

MCCOLLOUGH: Maybe the smell of our farm up in the country. That’s always a very cozy smell. And the sun. The smell of the sun.