“It's not African - people are always saying that - it's just craft. All that handwork and joy of expression,” said Lazaro Hernandez after a Proenza Schouler show which, although working the designer duo's familiar territory, seemed both fresh and serious as a creative offering.
In this New York season where designers and retailers are pushing for instant gratification in fashion, Proenza Schouler took the opposite path - what might be described as the European route. Not “see-now-buy-now”, but rather clothes made with such care and persnickety attention to detail that they could not possibly be churned out for instant gratification.
This summer 2017 show had the advantage of seeming less complex, mostly because of the use of pleats: black and white skirts puffing up and out at the front or bouncing below a fitted wine and navy striped tautly fitted jacket. It was as though the strict top half was trying to control the sculpted skirts. Another focus was a hemline pulled in by furry fabrics in layers of black and white.
"Pleats have definitely become one of our core signatures", said Jack McCollough, the other creator.
This design idea of opening up - control versus freedom in the same outfit - seemed essential to the style of the duo. So did the stripes in vivid colours - say a fiery red or a touch of orange on rain washed sky blue.
With earrings swaying like Alexander Calder mobiles and the pleated skirts swinging high-low, there seemed to be permanent sense of movement.
That said, even after all these years, it is still difficult to define what Proenza the brand stands for. Originality, imagination and certainly craftsmanship, yes. But not even bodices fastened with crunchy bows or cut into heart-shapes defined any particular style - even if these touches made the clothes seem arty.
So a richly inventive collection with a few master works. But there is still no resolution as to what the essence of the brand is, as you might find with Chanel, Hermes or Valentino.
Perhaps "eclectic" is the essence of modern times. And in that category, Proenza Schouler excels.