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Proenza Schouler looks Eastward--Far Eastward

A model walks the runway at the Proenza

A model walks the runway at the Proenza Schouler Fall 2012 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week on Feb. 15, 2012 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images

When the lights come up for Proenza Schouler’s Fall 2012 runway show, they’re bright white—over the runway and the audience. This is one of the hottest tickets of the week, and if you wondered who else showed up Wednesday night at this event space under the High Line, well, now’s your chance to look around. The fluorescent glare bearing down from above is unavoidable, and there’s nothing but the cement floor and one plain pine wall as backdrop—stark and spare.

Last season’s show was an homage to charming, kitschy ‘50s era architecture but this—this is a different mood entirely.

When the first few models take the runway, they, too, are in bright, bright white ensembles—voluminous white poplin dresses or shirt / pant combos, with heavy cotton pique jackets and jagged, uneven hemlines. The material is treated with teeny perforations, like a racecar jacket, but otherwise, like the room, unadorned. And worn like armor.

If designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are trying to say something about their customer—she’s tough, for sure, a la Mad Max—or the world around her, well, the forecast seems rather bleak.

At first. But as the parade of models continues, color and softness begin to take over, first in a creamier ecru shirt and dress with what looks like a drawn-on breast pocket, then with voluminous leather tops, pants, jackets in black and crimson, all worn off-kilter. The references to American sportswear are clear: Some of the tops resemble windbreakers, others motorcycle jackets, enlarged and morphed just enough to make them seem fresh.

One of the most dramatic pieces of the line appears—a “black cage lace coat,” with gridlike lace that ties atop one shoulder.

Crimson and cobalt leather pieces—some actually woven—soon give way to evening looks of silk jacquard jackets and shantung skirts, lacquered lace and brocade, in robin’s egg blue or embroidered with pheasants or florals of chestnut, copper and gold. The dresses call to mind high-necked cheongsams and kimonos. There is some relief, it seems, for the Proenza gal who has managed to find a little color, delicacy—and incredible craftsmanship—under the harsh light.

Perhaps it’s all a commentary on our economy—which may stink…but the silk shantung goes on. On a similar note, a brief message on the last page of the program mentions the show was dedicated to Steven Brinke, the Paris-based, American DJ who was rather beloved on the fashion scene and who, with his biz and life partner, Michel Gaubert, produced music for top fashion houses, until Brinke’s recent death. For this show, the sound design is credited to, alas,  Gaubert alone.


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