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Gab Fest with Proenza Schouler

Fresh off of New York Fashion Week, the genius boys behind Proenza Schouler (a.k.a. Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez) breezed through San Francisco recently for a private trunk show and cocktail party at Neiman Marcus and, of course, a gab fest with 7x7. With leather gloves, sleek jumpsuits and zippered pencil skirts from their Spring 2009 collection in tow, the playful Manhattan-based duo shared their thoughts on diving into accessory design, getting inspired, and dressing their mothers.

Any backstage war stories to share from New York Fashion Week?

LH: Oh we have such a horror story! Two days before our show we were on the top floor of our building and the water tower exploded on the roof, which was a thousand gallons of water, and it exploded into our showroom. Thank God we had a bunch of people and an army of interns, who grabbed everything just in time. I think we only had to dry clean two pieces, but that entire space flooded.

JM: All the bags were on the floor, and all the clothes were white. It was crazy. We called 911 in the middle of it because we thought the building was going to collapse … and the fire department came with axes and all the models were there for fittings and were standing around like uh, I don’t know what to do. We just kept fitting with chaos happening behind us. It was a very fashion moment.

What inspired your Spring '09 collection?

JM: We were looking at some post-minimalist American artists, specifically Robert Ryman. His white paintings in particular were interesting to us, the textures, the lack of color, but different ways in which you could do white. Even the way he hung his paintings—he kind of exposed the internal structures and the foundations of his paintings—which we kind of did through clothing.

LH: You know, minimalist works by Carl Andre, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd. All these post-minimalist works that are almost industrial … but they’re actually really pure and really beautiful and really high art and sophisticated.

JM: Which also kind of led us to images of these women in the 1940’s whose husbands went away to war, so they went to the factories to kind of take their place building airplanes and wire circuit boards. So there are these fascinating images of these women that are very made up and very feminine in a lot of ways with their red lipstick and their very done hair, but then they’re in these jumpsuits and gloves.

Where do you go if you want to get inspired?

LH: We have a little farm up in the Berkshires, so we go up there. We escape to the country.

Do you read reviews of your collections?

JM: There are seasons where you’ll look at it more than others. Sometimes you’ll Google everything, because you’re curious as to what every little newspaper said. Sometimes you kind of pay a little less attention.

LH: I think what’s happened to me is the more insecure I am about a collection, the more it gets to me. when you feel really good about the collection, it doesn’t matter because you know they’re wrong.

It’s a well-known fact your label was named after your mothers’ maiden names. Are your moms into your clothing?

LH: Yes. My mom wears a lot of our stuff. But not our accessories. She thinks they’re too young.

JM: My mom’s more into the accessories, and not so much into the clothes. We only go up to a size 10 and unfortunately my mom is a real mom. She’s not trying to fit her butt into a pencil skirt!

You just launched accessories. What’s the biggest challenge of moving into that arena?

JM: Well it’s just a new language in a lot of way, but trying to maintain the language we’ve started with clothes, and seeing how well that translates to a bag or a shoe or to sunglasses.

What’s your biggest indulgence?

JM: We try not to work on weekends.

LH: That’s not an indulgence.

JM: I think it is indulgent. Everyone works on weekends – in the city especially. We go away on the weekends and these are our times to disconnect.

LH: True, the city’s so crazy and so non-stop. It’s nice to have that bipolar world upstate.

One thing all women should have in their closets?

JM:  Whatever speaks to them. Whatever lets them express themselves. Whatever makes you feel happy is what you should have.

LH: And something Proenza Schouler!