Since arriving on the New York fashion scene in 2002, Proenza Schouler has managed to create and uphold its hip image with such enviable ease that it would be dangerous not to master the correct articulation of a brand so frequently name checked. Pronounced pro-EN-za SKOOL-er, designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough were forced to invent the name after they promptly sold their entire graduate collection to Barneys. Deciding that their own surnames lacked, to quote McCollough, a ‘high-end quality,’ they opted instead to create a moniker from their mothers’ maiden names – borrowing Proenza from Hernandez’s mother, and Schouler from McCollough’s. “One of our biggest regrets is the name of our company,” explains McCollough. “There are so many letters. Even coming up with a font was a mission.”
“One of our biggest regrets is the name of our company,” explains McCollough. “There are so many letters. Even coming up with a font was a mission"
The duo grew up in vastly different circumstances. McCollough was born in Tokyo before, aged five, the family uprooted to live in New Jersey, following his investment banker father. Hernandez hailed from the Cuban area of Miami where his mother ran a beauty salon; and while Hernandez was set to become a doctor, McCollough was taken with the unusual art of glassblowing. It wasn’t until they met in 1999 at Parson’s School of Design in New York, after abandoning their original courses, that the pair began showing signs of symmetry, gaining internships at Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs respectively.
It is difficult to measure the impact of a brand formed only a decade ago, unless of course, like Proenza Schouler, you have received the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award in 2007 and again in 2011. Handing over a 45% stake to Valentino Fashion Group for $3.7 million after only five years in the business also assisted in catapulting the designers into the fashion stratosphere. Yet Lazaro Hernandez muses over his success with disarming modesty. “Sometimes I think the people who buy our clothes live in a parallel universe. Hell, we can’t even afford our clothes”.
Text by Fiona Cook