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An architectural perspective on Proenza Schouler

'Severity balanced by warmth': architect critic Felix Burrichter reviews Proenza Schouler

This autumn Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, design duo behind Proenza Schouler, will open a boutique in New York’s SoHo district. It is their second store in the city and just like the their first one, which opened last year on Madison Avenue, will be designed by the Ghanaian architect David Adjaye.

Perhaps it was Adjaye’s beautifully tenebrous (and fully air-conditioned spaces) that McCollough and Hernandez had in mind when designing their SS14 collection, because the long and impeccably tailored silhouettes that they sent down the runway didn’t exactly scream summer swelter.

In fact, they weren’t screaming at all: a perfect sea of beige, ecru, eggshell, sand, tan, and terracotta hues graced jackets, coats, long-sleeved dresses and tops, ankle-length skirts and wide-legged pants baring little to no flesh. But if there was an overall quietness to the collection, it was far from prim and proper. Splashes of black, red, gold and silver metallic disrupted when things threatened to become too harmonious, as did carefully placed folds and seams that revealed well-measured flashes of skin. Prints of what seemed to be tree branches added an earthy variety without seeming overly sweet.

This Proenza Schouler woman seems sensual, but remains in control; slightly wicked, but never weak. Imagine a no nonsense Network-era Faye Dunaway letting loose over dirty martinis on the set of Woody Allen’s Interiors. Veteran supermodel Kirsty Hume was the perfect stand-in for that kind of hard-edged sensuality.

This mood was further emphasized by the Moroder-heavy soundtrack, courtesy of Michel Gaubert, who mixed bits from American Gigolo, Cat People, and Midnight Express into one lurid sound collage.

Further driving the point home were the towering wood and leather sandals, which pulled off the unlikely feat of pairing a bondage theme with the comfy, rustic feel of Sergio Rodrigues furniture.

In a way the collection was a perfect mirror to Adjaye’s architecture, which also often combines warmth with a certain level of severity. And speaking of warmth: once New York’s excruciating summer heat returns, there are always those backless cast metal tops that closed this brilliant show. 

Felix Burrichter trained as an architect and is the founder of the architecture and design magazine PIN–UP