When Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler summed up their A/W 12-3 collection by saying "It's Asian but in a New York way", I had visions of girls running around downtown (or indeed uptown at Proenza Schouler's impending new store on Madison Avenue) scrabbling around and figuring out ways how to "do" an Asian look. I'm of course deflecting. Make no mistake that despite my innate eyebrow raising at all things hokily Oriental (cease before you speak Statesiders, the word is not offensive in the UK) in fashion, Proenza Schouler once again hit a new high. Their pheasants soared and their chrysanthemums bloomed in a way that did NOT have me wondering whether the designer looked at references from China or Japan through a lens tinted with literal exoticism or hackneyed cliches.
The show itself sadly eluded my physical self though because even if my eyes wanted to witness this Asian/New York hybrid moment, my body failed me on the night of the show, which had me lurching for the toilet on the bathroom floor. In Paris though at the showroom, that was where I got to affirm what the pictures already told me already – that Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough are sitting pretty at the front-of-the-pack, setting the tone for the season and for future seasons when the inspired trickle down in other brands and high street clothes begin. The initial passage of the show is stark, demure and almost monkish in its devotion to all shades of white and cream rendered in quilted, waffled and padded textures, ballooning all over the body in a way that I'm really quite taken with at the moment. Sadly buying things three sizes too big isn't the solution to the oversized conundrum as Hernandez and McCollough get the proportions bang on – the sleeves curving away from the arms just so, the shoulders hulked around the bodyframe at the correct angles, the skirts flaring out from the legs with precision. Cynics would say that the shapes owe more than their fair share to Nicholas Ghesquiere but even that old chestnut can't detract from the fact that the collection left onlookers feeling refreshed and excited.
On that trail of thought you have to look at the detailing, which kicks in when Lazaro and McCollough begin to make nods at everything from Japaense kimono obis, samurai uniforms and costumes from Bhutan. It's a sensory joy to go through all of it in words and in person when feeling up the clothes – tubular plastic beading threaded with leather, basket weave leather, honeycomb stitching, thick jersey yarn knits, geometric quilting and an array of technical laces. When the textures weren't of the innovative sort that the duo have become known for, more traditional surfaces such as the Japanoiserie brocade is cut and spliced into long-sleeve dresses which do away with any reminders of terrible tourist robes or "sexy Oriental babe" lingerie. When you see that familiar embroidery of pheasants cockerels and peacocks, reminiscent of vintage kimonos or fraying silk cushions, they're given new environments in the form of baseball jackets of the highest order and quilted dresses. Show pieces don't get more tangible and unreachable, than this. Tangible because they are essentially you-me-and-everyone-can-wear-em friendly jackets. Unreachable because inevitably they'll be hellishly expensive.
With shows just around the corner, I don't doubt that there will be plenty of these Asian slash New York looks running about town. Or even err… Asians running around in these Asian slash New York clothes. Here's hoping yours truly (Asian, staunch Londoner) can join them.