Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are the designers behind New York-based label Proenza Schouler . The overwhelmingly positive reception to the duo's work has seen the American designers experience a meteoric rise through the fashion ranks since their debut collection in 2002. Private equity firm Castanea Partners acquired a minority stake in the brand in 2015, but was bought out by McCollough and Hernandes in November 2018 in a major shake up including the appointment of turnaround specialist Kay Hong as CEO.
The pair met while studying at Parsons the New School of Design; unusually they chose to collaborate on their graduate collection, naming it after their mother’s maiden names. The collection, released in 2002, was picked up in its entirety by Barneys New York, the first in a spate of early triumphs. In 2004, the pair were awarded the inaugural CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund; they would go on to win the ceremony’s most prestigious award, womenswear designer of the year, in 2007.
McCollough and Hernandez are famously close and their creative processes are inextricably intertwined. Following each runway show the duo vacation together, and then separately, the one week of the year they claim to be apart from each other. Following their vacations they begin the process of melding their idiosyncratic inspirations.
Hernandez told New York Magazine, “One of us might be feeling long when the other one is feeling short. So then we’re just, like, ‘Let’s do both.’ Like, miniskirts with long coats over it. It’s more expensive to have two people ’cause I’m like, ‘I want that dress in white,’ and Jack’s like, ‘No, white’s gross, let’s do it in black.’ And then I say, ‘Oh, we did black last season,’ so then it’s just like, ‘Okay. Let’s sample it in both.’ At the end of the day, we’ll just have to see what’s cuter.”
The designers believe the greater sum of the individual parts is the secret to their success. “It is two worlds coming together. If either of us had gone independently in our own direction without having the other side... it gives it the subversive twist that we love. So the people that don’t get it, that’s fine, and the cool girls do get it, and buy it!” Proenza Schouler’s aesthetic is rooted in their unique and compelling juxtapositions of form, fabric, attitude and style, immediately evocative of the city they design in, and the multi-faceted women that reside in it.
Critical acclaim and rampant commercial success, added to by the addition of accessories and shoes in 2008, and a fragrance in 2018, have made Proenza Schouler a sure fixture at New York Fashion Week.