>> There's been many an argument over the correct pronunciation of Proenza Schouler, and in the March 2011 issue of Interview, Lazaro Hernandez admits of the name, "I actually regret it." Jack McCollough agrees: "Yeah. One of our biggest regrets is the name of our company. It's like alphabet soup. There are so many letters. Even coming up with a font was a mission. We had to do these fine, little letters. We couldn't do strong, bold letters because it would be, like, out to here . . . . The whole reason why we even picked that name in the first place was that when we started, Barneys had just bought our collection and we didn't have a name. We thought, Hernandez McCollough? Doesn't sound so high end, does it?" Hernandez adds, "Proenza Schouler is better."
Their close friend and interviewer for the piece, Chloe Sevigny, points out that she likes the initials PS. McCollough notes: "We like PS, too, but Paul Smith has taken it. It's trademarked." Perhaps that's how their signature bag, the PS1, got named — it's as close to PS as they could get.
McCollough and Hernandez also cleared up questions surrounding their relationship — they are together personally as well as professionally (even though rumors have circulated that Derek Blasberg caused them to split years ago). And Proenza Schouler's CEO from the beginning, Shirley Cook, who McCollough says "was a friend of a friend from school" and "would come over and help us organize the part of running a business that we were clueless about" while working PR at Helmut Lang, has been dating McCollough's brother for six years. "What if they get married?" Sevigny asks.
Hernandez: Or what if they break up? That's even worse. [laughs] If they get married, it's fine. It's still the family.
McCollough: It could get messy. But you know, all relationships can potentially get really messy.
Hernandez: Like Jack and I could break up and then what would happen? Hmm.
McCollough: Whoa! What are you insinuating? I don't need you. [Hernandez laughs]
Hernandez: Those are all ifs. You gotta just . . .
McCollough: . . . move forward.
As far as their design relationship, Hernandez says it often works on compromise: "What's cool about us, if I want black and Jack wants white, we won't do either. We'll do grey. We have to find something in-between what we both want. It's hard. But Proenza Schouler wouldn't look the way it does if it were me by myself or Jack by himself. We do grey because I like white or he likes black. But none of us really likes grey, in a weird, metaphorical way." And between them, they design "90 percent of what you see."
That includes the pre-collections, which many other designers farm out to their design director (they don't have one). McCollough says, "If anything, the biggest stress these days are these pre-collections. They eat up so much of our time." But: "It's become just a huge part of the business. I think the pre-collections are about 60 percent of the business."
Nonetheless, they maintain that while designing, they don't think about sales. McCollough asserts, "If anything, we're anti-sales." And Hernandez adds: "We're really bad about that. We tend to think, 'What does my woman want for next season? What does she need? What does her closet lack? What has never crossed her mind?' It's never, 'Oh maybe she has enough short skirts made by us, now we need to do longer.' That's beside the point."
Sevigny notes that the designers are friends with Joseph Altuzarra and Alexander Wang, and asks if they feel a healthy competition with other designers. "Totally," Hernandez responds. "I think in the very beginning when we were trying to break through, we reacted to people who had already broken through a bit with something like, 'I hate him!' But now we feel more like there's room for everyone. Everyone does something different. All the young designers now are doing something interesting." McCollough chimes in: "There can be some crossover in places, absolutely. But for the most part, when people are doing well, they have their own thing going on."
It's well-documented that McCollough and Hernandez enjoy stepping away from the erratic fashion cycle on their farm in upstate New York — "People say New York is really inspiring and stuff, but for us, New York is a place to get sh*t done. Leaving the city and exploring things outside of the city is really inspiring," Hernandez says. And for such young designers — both men are 32 — it sounds like they've already mulled the idea of exiting fashion:
McCollough: We're not in this forever. We're not going to have the longevity of Karl Lagerfeld, who's doing this stuff at his age.
Hernandez: We respect people who have the stamina.
Sevigny: So are you going to become like Helmut Lang and do fine art?
McCollough: His career is kind of genius.
Hernandez: Helmut Lang's our hero.
McCollough: He stopped at his peak, you know?
Sevigny: But that wasn't exactly because he wanted to.
Hernandez: I think, probably, in retrospect, that served him well. For our generation, he's like God. He stepped down and left everyone wanting more.