#SuzyNYFW: Proenza Schouler’s Denim Homecoming
A sky-blue shirt with rain-washed clouds, a palid denim skirt and, hanging loose from one shoulder, a vast bag that was cut from a pair of jeans.
Proenza Schouler has come home from its two seasons showing in Paris. And with that return, designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough have shed its focus on craft. Instead of intense handwork, the duo embraced something intrinsically American: denim.
“We wanted to celebrate coming back to New York, and what’s more American than denim? The whole collection was about exploring one material,” McCollough said.
He was referring to the complex cutting and imaginative use of humble materials, whether for a white denim jacket over a chalky skirt, or cloudy-blue bleached materials from plain cotton through gabardine and poplin.
But denim was not the only Proenza Schouler story. A display of plastic-covered figures by German artist Isa Genzken was planted at the entrance to the show, which was held in the same raw, abandoned Wall Street building that the designers used in previous seasons.
“The whole collection was in response to those works; the whole thing is a dialogue,” the duo explained, referring to the artist’s body of work and to the installation of five mannequins wearing Proenza garments, standing among the plastic tubes, adhesive tape, plastic foil, and foam material.
The idea was smart: To pair humble, workaday denim with a European artist who is fascinated by New York and who draws on everyday culture, from consumer goods to urban environments. But the reality was that the designers’ return to simplicity, in their fabrics and clothing, introduced some arty complications. They were mostly in the form of little squares containing an iconic New York image, such as the Statue of Liberty, or a glass-and-metallic high-rise building that contrasted dramatically with the “down home” feeling of a cloudy blue shirt or a stonewashed skirt.
As so often with Proenza Schouler, there was a sense of imagination that became too intense and complex. The shoes, by contrast, seemed inventive but simple, with a gathering of leather at the ankle.
Many of the clothes were also streamlined, such as a washed denim dress with a focus on pockets, a flap at the breast and gathered openings at the knees. Stitches tracing dark denim made for a chic daytime outfit.
Perhaps it was time for the Proenza Schouler label to adopt a simpler attitude to modern dress. The false simplicity, humbleness and Puritanism of down-on-the-farm sun-dresses in thick, stout cotton had a French chic. And touches of colour – especially green and yellow patterns with a giant orange bag – were a nice surprise. (The photograph of a New York skyscraper planted at the hem of the shirt was less comprehensible.)
I am all for fashion embracing art. But that should mean clothes made with an artistic point of view, not undigested art references. The collaboration with Isa Genzken, for all her passion for New York City, made me feel that it is time for an amicable divorce between fashion and art. Ultimately, the artistry in the clothes themselves should be enough.