Proenza Schouler's 2015 autumn-winter collection

Fashion loves an art reference and at Proenza Schouler it got two: the lush paintings of abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler, and the American artist Robert Morris, whose sculptures includes large modular felt slices and graphic ramps and cubes. But Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, the designers behind the cult New York label, had taken their references more as a point from which to “let it all hang out” than as a literal interpretation, explained McCollough backstage after the show.

It was Morris’s artistic temperament, McCollough said, that had really inspired them. “He would go ahead and slash materials, let things fall. He would hang them on the wall without necessarily composing them. He would very much let them do what they wanted to do, and that was very much what we wanted to do this season.”

Hence for AW15, dresses were slashed to reveal the body and give them more movement. Boiled felt jackets were fastened with long, drooping panels that were left “to do their thing”, a needle-punched coat of pony skin was fabricated in a patchwork of sections that deliberately misaligned.

Sound sloppy? It wasn’t. This was an expertly constructed collection in which the clothes’ free-falling sculptural details belied the technical skill of their construction. There was a lot of tailoring, a lot of needle punching, and a lot of work. The tweeds had been made from fabric that had been woven by McCollough and Hernandez and then cut into strips to be woven once more: “There were a lot of layers,” said McCollough.

This was no straight homage to abstract expressionism — even if the fur details had been inspired directly by the artistic milieu of the late 1940s in which “women would walk around the galleries in these great fur-trimmed coats”. Instead, the process had also allowed the clothes to take on their own direction. The viscose chiffon trousers looked plush and velvety. A series of chiffon dresses, fastened with eyelet details, and tufted with fur and wool chevrons, took on an almost tribal edge. And the slashed dresses were . . . rather racy.

“There was an underlying sexiness,” admitted McCollough, “even though we don’t like to use that word.” He preferred to say “alluring”. I’ll say they were damn good.


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