NEW YORK, United States — When Judd Crane first started talking to Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez about joining Proenza Schouler as chief executive last year, the co-founders and co-designers had two specific goals in mind for the business: combine the pre-collections and main collections into twice-yearly seasonal offerings and expand the ready-to-wear collection through casual, more accessible categories.
“I am really pleased that in the last year we have been able to get ourselves aligned to execute both of these initiatives,” says Crane. In July, the label debuted a consolidation of its Resort and Spring 2018 collections in Paris. And on November 6, Proenza Schouler White Label (PSWL) — a new sister line of denim, t-shirts, sweatshirts and outerwear priced from $195 to $1195 — will arrive at a selection of global retailers and Proenza Schouler stores.
“The vibe of PSWL, seasonally, is not necessarily the same exact direction we are going in on a fashion level,” says McCollough, clarifying that PSWL is not a separate collection, but an extension of the existing label. “We want it to be a little more rooted in reality and little more real.” The designers were inspired by the style of their friends such as Harmony Korine, Dan Colen and Chloë Sevigny, and the women in their office. “They are always wearing their jackets from the collection or knitwear from the collection with jeans,” says Hernandez. “It will be nice to have more categories that can reach a broader audience of people,” adds McCollough.
Reaching a broader audience is of utmost importance for Proenza Schouler right now as the 15-year-old brand, which received a minority investment from Boston-based private equity firm Castanea in 2015 and had a reported overall sales revenue of under $90 million in 2016, looks to new avenues of growth while the designer ready-to-wear market slows down. In February, Proenza Schouler will debut its first fragrance with licensing partner L’Oréal, and a new e-commerce website launched this autumn. Adding casual categories expands the lifestyle offering.
Jason Wu, another New York-based designer ready-to-wear brand with private equity investment, made a similar expansion in 2016 when it launched Grey Jason Wu, inspired by his friends’ personal styles and priced between $295 and $1,395.
While Proenza Schouler is already producing t-shirts featuring prints from the runway collections, Crane says denim, t-shirts and casual outerwear is currently a “negligible part of our business,” though individual pieces have been top sellers. “We know there’s a real demand from our retail partners,” he says.
However, PSWL’s debut Spring/Summer 2018 collection, the first delivery of which arrives in stores this November, will start with more limited distribution. “We see this first season as a trial season — experimenting and really buttoning up the merchandising and production of the range to guarantee its long-term success,” says Crane, adding that the brand will expand the distribution in autumn 2018.
Launch partners were chosen for their long-standing relationships with the brand as well as global influence and include Nordstrom, The Webster, Lane Crawford, Boontheshop, Isetan, Le Bon Marché, 24 Sèvres, Browns, Tsum, Beymen, Boutique 1 and Farfetch. Jen Brill, a consultant and frequent collaborator of the brand, advised on this strategy. (The main label is carried at over 350 doors globally.) Proenza Schouler’s Greene Street store will be a flagship for the PSWL in New York, featuring a new window display for the launch.
“We needed the proper infrastructure within the company to take on a project of this magnitude,” says Hernandez. “This is something that we have always dreamed of doing.”