New York A/W'12 - Proenza Schouler

For Winter 2012 Proenza Schouler were influenced by samurai. SAMURAI. This is immensely awesome. To be more accurate Jack and Lazaro looked not just at samurai but also martial arts and more general elements of eastern dress. All a recipe for a show full of western condescension and cultural appropriations, but by boiling down these influences to the notion of protection, any cringe inducing, Lagerfeld-esque cliches were avoided and instead we were presented with a thing of beauty.
The idea of protection was presented at first through swaths of white cotton wrapping models' bodies, asymmetric coats and low-slung pants bringing to mind karate and judo. Comments were made on the unusual choice of cotton for a winter collection, but right now the thought of layer upon layer of the stuff seems very comforting. And it is with this protection theme that the collection worked right the way through to riffs on samurai armor (!!!).

Although the collection may have been about protection, after last season's tailored ladies Hernandez and McCollough wanted to relax everything, drop waists and loosen. You can see this in the roomy cotton shirts and pants as well as wrapped miniskirts which, when the models walked, flicked out, their sharp edges exaggerated. And so as well as everything being wonderfully slouchy, there were elements that were totally stiff and angular. Hal Rubenstein (who I admit I had to google after finding this quote) said "It's about movement, it's not about the form", which for me hits the nail on the head. The show felt wonderfully complex because not only was this movement loose and slouchy but stiff and angular too. To see what I mean you will have to watch a video of the show.

In the skirts you can see the forming of samurai-style wrapping, but Jack and Lazaro went all-out samurai for other ensembles. Wearable, no, kickass, yes.

Proenza Schouler always makes sure to include interesting craft elements, and Bhutanese basket-weaving was the starting point for this collection. Woven leather was used on everything except pants, it seems. For skirts, jackets and tops, thick and thin strips of died leather were used to create an amazing assortment of patterns. The texture of the weave varied, and for coats the weave was much finer - were it not for close ups I wouldn't have been able to tell that the black and red coat was woven leather at all.

While they claimed they didn't want this collection to be about Asia, obviously it's pretty hard to ignore the total proliferation of Asian influences. However they've extended the influences enough and, in most cases, interpreted them subtly enough to avoid this being "Proenza Schouler's Asian Collection". And with the final brocade looks (brocades they developed themselves!) they saved themselves from anything too close to appropriation by filtering everything through a New York view of Asia. And since these looks reminded me of the late 90s/early 2000s cheongsam dress trend, I'd say they did that well.

Runway images from vogue.com
Backstage shots from Self Service

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