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Proenza Schouler's switch on kitsch

You knew the fellas of Proenza Schouler were up to something as soon as you saw the shag carpet. Design duo Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez covered their runway in faded brown carpeting, the kind of wall-to-wall stuff that was standard issue in finished basements of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Before the lights even went down…you could smell the kitsch.

The collection is inspired by Googie architecture of the — wait — did you get that? Not Google, as in the search engine that’s taking over the world. But Googie, with an “i-e,” a form of design expressing the space-age optimism of the mid-20th century — the kind of Jetsonesque style you see (if you can still find it) in old diners, burger joints and bowling alleys. (Drive by the Plainview Diner on Old Country Road, and you’ll get the idea.)

Given the inspiration, you might expect something costumey (the way some vintage-inspired looks can go), but these two aren’t media darlings for nothing. The Parson’s almost-grads (they left school just before graduation, launching their label in 2002, after the clothes they designed for their senior project were snatched up and sold at Barneys) are skilled craftsmen. And their collection has a modern, edgy, vibrant feel.

They start with high-waist shorts suits and color-blocked cotton dresses with panels of mesh and zebra print. On to crocheted raffia skirts (almost tribal), and striped skirts (made from strips of eel) topped by proper polos. Boxlike bags and platform shoes finish the look.  Even tiki-style influences pop up — on Polynesian floral print dresses and skirts gathered like sarongs (aloha, Dorothy Lamour), culminating in tops made of that same Polynesian print, but dazzlingly embroidered, with sexy open backs and paired with sleek eel skirts in orange and electric blue.

They say history repeats itself. In this case, it gets better.


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