The Purpose of Protagonist
PHOTOS: SEBASTIAN SABAL-BRUCE. HAIR: YUKIKO TAJIMA/WM ARTISTS MANAGEMENT USING ORIBE CARE HAIR. MAKEUP: ALLIE SMITH. MODEL: SUNNIVA/DNA MODELS. CASTING: BERT MARTIROSYAN.
The building blocks of a wardrobe—the just-right white button-down shirt, slim-cut black pant, well-proportioned wool overcoat—often happen to be the most elusive. Of this, Georgia Lazzaro is all too keenly aware. “Women in New York are leading really interesting, dynamic lives and they need clothing to work into that,” she explains, speaking by phone from her studio in the Garment District. “It has to function. It has to serve a purpose. But you also want to have some sort of nuance and story behind it.”
Lazzaro’s pragmatism is perfectly at home at Protagonist, the aptly named cult label that debuted in 2013 with a core offering of elevated shirting under the umbrella of Vanessa Traina’s multi-pronged retail concept, The Line. In the several seasons since its inception (Lazzaro took over as design director at the end of 2015 from Kate Wendelborn, who has since moved onto other projects), Protagonist has steadily served up a succession of luxurious, seasonless, pared-down pieces that elegantly bear the brunt of the reality of women’s day-to-day lives.
Take, for example, a soigné black crepe cady cocktail frock from Fall 2016, which balances a deep décolletage cut with tailored long sleeves and a slit skirt, or for Resort, a belted saffron trench updated with a sharp utilitarian silhouette. Protagonist’s Spring 2017 outing, with wide-legged jumpsuits and cotton sundresses, upped the ante on contemporary modern classics, a subject in which, Lazzaro, 31, is exceedingly fluent. The Melbourne, Australia native studied fashion at RMIT University in her hometown before winning an internship grant that brought her to New York, where she cut her teeth at Narciso Rodriguez and under Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein. Traina soon came calling, and Lazzaro presented her first collection for Protagonist’s Fall 2016 season.
“Protagonist previously was set up with this beautiful aesthetic of being lean, having a masculine underpinning to it. Certainly I love that aesthetic, but I also understand that sometimes those shapes need to be softened and feel a little bit more romantic,” Lazzaro says. “What I’m really trying to develop at the moment is those core silhouettes that we constantly come back to every season. So the last three collections, Fall, Resort, and Spring, have been about exploring variants in those categories. I think each generation becomes a little bit more and bit more improved.” Lazzaro’s forays into more louche iterations of Protagonist’s ür-pieces include sensual draped silk slipdresses, languid, waist-cinched tops, and vividly colored suede matching sets.
“The funny thing is in anything creative you often find yourself coming full circle. I have quite a specific sensibility and I think I’ve been incredibly lucky to have found myself in positions of employment that have allowed me to exercise that more. So many people struggle with that,” Lazzaro admits. “It feels very true to who I am.”
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