“Copycats.” That’s what some may say about the latest offering by the Proenza Schouler boys for Fall 2012, but there’s much more to it than that. In fashion, the gut reaction proves to be essential in deciding whether or not a show was “good,” and from a visceral point of view, that collection was amazing. It had everything that a modern, fashion forward girl wants to wear; intriguing for a street style shot, entertaining for editorial, and interesting when broken apart to incorporate into anybody’s wardrobe. The colors were futuristically autumnal, the layers were effortlessly put together, and the silhouettes were obstructively modern.
As gorgeously modern as it was, analyzing the collection expresses a different side to the fashion coin. The collection is beautifully playful, but is it original? Not really. Anyone who sees the collection can obviously see the Céline and Balenciaga vibes of the collection. However, the quickness to call plagiarism in Schoul seems too negative a title to describe a positively enjoyable show. Maybe it’s a sign of the times. As a fashion culture, we all express a common love toward the revolutionary straight silhouette of the 20s, the glamorous New Look of the 50s, or the strong shouldered power of the 80s. Even those who don’t know much about fashion can speak of these definitive ideas, silhouettes, and designs that evoke an era. Can this era be defined by a dynamic, futuristic couture-influenced aesthetic? With Philo, Ghesquière, and Simons ruling the fashion world, the answer seems to be yes. Their influence is seen throughout fashion in any designer’s collection. While we should obviously praise originality, we also crave cohesion and beauty. We don’t know for sure—it is only 2012 after all—but that look doesn’t seem to be dying anytime soon.
That’s not to say that the collection wasn’t expressive of the Proenza Schouler brand, because it was. There was a slouchy disheveled-ness that looked more soft than Balenciaga and more rugged than Céline. That balance was kept throughout the show. Where Philo would go structurally androgynous and Ghesquière would go artistically draped, Jack and Lazaro’s lacquered shirts were messily tucked in, oversized, and surprisingly backless. The silhouettes obstructed the body. Shapes that were revolutionary in 50s and 60s haute couture are now part of the normal fashion vernacular, finally ready to reach the masses and Proenza Schouler is a great place for it to do that. When Balenciaga does Balenciaga, the couture elements are part of the vocabulary, but at this level in New York those elements are new to the younger, less heritage-driven kind of brand. The sculptural element was there in form of boxier jackets, but the schoolgirl layering seemed innately them, especially with a subtle contrast in color of collar on loads of the looks. There were comebacks of their tried and true strong pieces reinvigorated. The furry collared varsity-style coats and jackets from their Fall 2010 collection appeared again in a surprising way, with added volume and asymmetrically falling over to one side. The slightly surrealistic, Japanese-Parisian influence of that asymmetry expressed the Asian inspiration in a less obvious way than the Japanese-woodblock peacock prints toward the end of the show which Lazaro Hernandez said were “Asian but in a New York way.” The spilled-over coat was Asian but in a Yohji, Junya, and Rei European way, via New York. With that, the high-art look of Balenciaga futuristic couture, Céline boyish minimalism, and Japanese avant garde all combined together to create a street version at Proenza Schouler for the most commercial of fashion capitals. Obviously, geography is important here.
In keeping with the Céline influence, the bags imitated Philo’s driving helmet inspired ones for Fall 2011 but were more tubular than round. The shoes were, alternatively, more Balenciaga inspired. The heeled leather boots had Velcro straps instead of buckles, and lacked laces which showed off the sporty-street New York vibe that they do so well. Dr. Marten’s refreshed. The standout pieces, however, were clutches that made us fantastically fearful for Bambi’s life. The furry bags had deer spots and tufts of tails protruding from the tops and bottoms, all of which gave the more techno-artificial feel of the collection some ground, life, and needed rusticity.
The peacock, used so heavily in the last third of the collection, symbolically represents immortality and renewal. That idea is so important in fashion; this collection renews and immortalizes the influence of Phoebe Philo and Nicolas Ghesquière in the world of design. However unintentional it may be, the peacock symbol makes sense in a collection that so densely draws upon Parisian fashion’s innovative thinkers for inspiration. Where Philo’s girl loves strength and Ghesquière’s loves the cutting edge, Proenza Schouler’s customer loves fashion. This collection was gorgeous, expressive, and thoroughly enjoyable. In a time where there are millions of micro trends and new collections never stop showing, the continuation of a familiar look into new territory is refreshing, especially one that evokes a confident style that says, “Artistic. Forward. Modern.”
See the full collection → Proenza Schouler FW12.
By Iris & Daniel