Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Proenza Schouler & Rodarte // Spring 2017 //

If you’re a regularly reader you’re probably aware that I’m of the mindset that ‘if all else fails at New York Fashion Week we’ll always have Proenza Schouler and Rodarte’. It’s no secret that those two conceptual labels are amongst my lengthy list of favourites. I can’t place the first time I witnessed a collection from either label but I do remember the collections that had the most profound impact on me. The defining Proenza moment was Spring 2010: a graphic, surfer-chic journey equipped with psychedelics and lustrous metallic fabrics. The impactful Rodarte season was Spring 2011: a suburban narrative with a gold tint and daring silhouettes. Both have continued to prosper since then, with a few bumps along the way. Now six years later, I still eagerly anticipate their shows, awaiting their unique point of views—something that undeniably sets them apart from their contemporaries.

I’d never seen a Proenza Schouler show because it was staged late on the Wednesday night in New York. The five hour time difference, coupled with the fact that I had school the next morning, meant I never had the chance to watch a live stream. This season, things changed. Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez swapped their usual Wednesday evening stint for a turn, early on Monday afternoon. The show began—fashionably—late and the first model charged the runway, uneasily (it was Michalina Gutknecht, her first show). A flouncy, black and white slightly off-the-shoulder mini-dress, fabric billowing behind her. Summery, well-crafted, familiar.

The show continued with some more Proenza staples: a great form-fitting jacket (this time in black with red stripes), a figure-hugging dress, a tremendous winter coat, graphic printed dresses and jackets. Thankfully the handwriting of the past three collections was present in this collection, allowing the boys to build consistency—an essential element in the growth of any brand, I believe.

And then the show ended. I unfortunately could only say I wasn’t overly enamoured by the show. There were some strong pieces but, also, there was some weak pieces and those were the ones that overshadowed the whole experience for me. I’ve seen various commentaries on how this was Proenza going full throttle, pedal to the metal—amping up everything intrinsic to the brand—colouration, tactility and shape. This was true, shapes pushed beyond what we usually see from the designers, the colours weren’t as limited as they have been in recent seasons, there was a glorious amount of texture. Regardless, the collection was lost on me, which truly pains me to say. 
The following day, on Tuesday, Rodarte presented in their usual venue at their usual time slot at midday. The grey room was filled this season with fluorescent lights, floral arrangements and stacks of metal on the floor. This arrangement generally bares minimal poetic symbolism. This season the metal encasing the fluorescent lighting resembled the recurring hexagonal shapes in famous imagery from the 1973 Spanish film The Spirit of the Beehive (which is showing in London on Monday evening, at the BFI Southbank). The film offered two points to look out for within the collection: the 1970s, Laura and Kate Mulleavy’s favourite cultural epoch, and romantic Spanish influences.

Fabrics were light and airy: there was subtly embroidered chiffon, delicate lace, the lightest shaggy furs, hand-dyed for further effect. The opening sector of this collection reminded me of subverted flamenco dresses, the way they looked like they were suspended from midair. The delicate, intricate embroidery that simply enriches the dresses. Soon after they amped up the 70s aspect to the collection. A pair of high waisted trousers were lined—down the side—with an excessive amount of safety pins. Another jacket was encrusted with rivets, stars and lace embroidery. The film the girls sought inspiration from was set in the Spanish countryside, and it was interesting to see how they compared this to the American West. There was a litany of references, from the safety pin motifs to the biker jackets, the feminine innocence of the dresses. Who knew that Spain and the American West could be intertwined together so beautifully.

The attention to detail in every Rodarte collection will forever inspire me. The duo’s painstaking detail to every outfit makes it unique and special in ways that are only appreciated by the press, but by their key customer base. They’re not buying into the ‘see-now, buy-now, wear-now’ model because their work simply isn’t suitable for that structure. Also, if someone was to purchase a honeycomb printed dress with rich beeswax embroidery on the bodice, I’m sure they’ll wait six months to buy a dream dress. 

There’s something so magical about referencing bees in a collection. For whatever reason, whether it be Sarah Burton at McQueen, Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel or the virtuosos at Rodarte, I’m continually thrilled by their feature. Whether it’s bee embroideries, golden honeycomb hues and shapes, or the symbols of the bee: ‘indefatigable effort’, according to Wikipedia—it’s perfectly suited to fashion. This collection, not only with its spirit of the bee, was an absolute knockout.

No matter what the collection looks like these dexterous duos will rank highly in my list of favourite designers. This New York portrayed two sides to having favourite brands. 1) Sometimes things don’t live up to your expectations. 2) They can exceed all expectations, and then some.
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