I’ve never been quite sure how to do “lady”. By “lady”, I mean the image prescribed to me by Doris Day films, where head to toe colour schemes, a strict posture and matching hats and gloves all utilised simultaneously to instil fear in the slouchy, mismatched and messy likes of me. You wonder whether Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough from Proenza Schouler looked at similar “lady” images – maybe these ones depicting impossibly chic women in the 1940s from Life Magazine – and thought to themselves that these ladies could go feral. Their interpretation of “lady” is precisely what made their A/W 15-6 collection so impressive and persuasive to us lady-allergic folk.
Hernandez and McCollough were in fact inspired by the contrast between well heeled and fur-swathed female art connoisseurs in the mid 20th century and the progressive abstract expressionist art that they’re looking at. But more than just a simple segue between canvas and cloth, what are strict and haughty silhouettes become untamed and vaguely animalistic. In other words, the sort of “lady” that I could get onboard with. They’re the sort of clothes have stuck with me long after the show back in February.
Nubbly tweed suits are upon closer inspection stitched up strips of woven chiffon. The astrakhan that might have graced hats and collars of those ladies who lunch, are turned into grey hued wraps that act like graphic enclosures around the body. Austere wool coats are cut-into so that they flail with similarly sharp-edged cut-outs gracing body conscious mid-length dresses. Cow print on calfskin makes adds a touch of the Wild West to a prim shift dress. Once evening starts kicking in, feathers that would sit perched in singular form on a hat are clustered into mohawked shoulders and V-shaped fringing on the hips. What might have been a smattering of sequins on a conventional dress are used in their hundreds of thousands to make provocatively cut-out robes that slither about on the body. Then any semblance of “lady” goes out of the window with the grommeted chiffon finale pieces splayed with more feathers. Even practical and sturdy tights are slashed into with geometry. This is “lady” gone feral. And in the process, once again the duo provoke with new textures. If Proenza Schouler’s recent collections prior to this one were a tad on the polite side, with A/W 14-5, they confront ladylike politeness head on and triumph by roughing up those connotations.