Proenza Schouler on computer-aided research, design and art


It’s no secret that Proenza Schouler designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez based their spring 2013 collection on the idea of scrolling through multiple Tumblr blogs – all manner of collaged prints and fabrics appearing at random from one look to the next.

At Internet Week in New York last week, the duo spoke with The FT’s Vanessa Friedman in more depth about their creative process and the role technology plays in their designs, research and corporate communications.

“The computer, they pointed out, has entirely changed the way they design. Yes, they still draw, but after an initial sketch, everything is input and from patterns on, it happens on-screen. They actually scan three-dimensional representations of bodies into the desktop, and then overlay prints on those, so they can see exactly where every dot or stripe or pixellated picture falls as a dress moves and turns,” wrote Friedman afterwards.

Another interesting viewpoint came from them seeing their website as primarily a gallery (although also their biggest store in terms of revenue) – and home to all manner of artistic internet projects to help shake them out of “collection rut” post season, they said. GIFs, which they refer to as “two seconds of thought, random ideas to put out there”, come courtesy of Jeanette Hayes, while their somewhat controversial videos come from Harmony Korine, both of whom they consider as friends.

“Our partnerships happen very organically,” they said on stage. “A lot of big brands have a routine schedule of when they post on social; it’s more organic for us. The whole digital thing hasn’t felt like a forced endeavour as a result, whereas for some it can be quite contrived.”

As accordingly highlighted by The Business of Fashion earlier this year: “The remixed, low-resolution aesthetics; humourous, sometimes bizarre tone; and fleeting nature of some of Proenza Schouler’s digital projects reflects their attraction to a messy, often goofy Internet culture that’s in many ways the opposite of the perfectly sealed and serious world of traditional luxury fashion advertising.”

You can’t argue with the authenticity that comes along with that.  As the designers said at Internet Week: “At the end of the day, people can see if things have authenticity, integrity and soul. It doesn’t make sense for us to do things unless they have [those].”

The duo also spoke to relying heavily on the internet for their research, rather than heading off to the likes of India in seek of inspiration. As Friedman highlighted, this is not only more cost-effective and time-efficient, but has resulted in a different sort of aesthetic. “Unlike more established brands, where designers often pick a cohesive theme based on their trips for a collection, virtual links lead to more conceptual, non-linear, idiosyncratic ideas and imagery as users make connective leaps online they might not normally make.”

On that basis McCollough and Hernandez highlighted three of the blogs they regularly use – a nice bit of inspiration to end on:

  • Gasoline Surf, run by a graphic designer called Scott West who concentrates on vintage, largely black and white images of California, celebrities like Steve McQueen or Mick Jagger, and graphic architecture, along with a splash of art and fashion
  • But Does it Float, a contemporary art blog edited by three guys called Folkert Gorter, Atley Kasky and Will Schofield, who team everything from illustrations to photography with relevant inspirational quotes as titles
  • MondoBlogo, a furniture, design and art blog curated by Patrick Parrish, owner of New York gallery Mondo Cane

By Rachel Arthur

Rachel Arthur is Editor-in-Chief of Current Daily, the leading news source for fashion, retail and innovation, and the co-host of its weekly Innovators podcast. She otherwise serves as Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Current Global, a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion luxury and retail. By background she is an award-winning business journalist and consultant, contributing to titles including Wired, Forbes and Business of Fashion.

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