Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez Take Proenza Schouler Into Its Next Phase

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A little over a decade ago, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez were just getting their start. The design duo, who were given special dispensation by Parsons to work as a team, had their award-winning joint senior collection snapped up by the fashion director of Barneys New York. Shortly afterwards McCollough and Hernandez went into business together as Proenza Schouler, a company named for their mothers.

In the years since, the New York-based brand has secured worldwide distribution with luxury retailers, and just last year the first Proenza Schouler boutique opened in New York. In addition to their status as celebrity favorites, McCollough and Hernandez have earned a reputation for being some of the hardest working designers in the industry (as evidenced by their stunning Fall/Winter 2013 collection).

However, not since Marc Jacobs has an up-and-coming American brand successfully made the transition to a full blown, established fashion house. While there are a plethora of talented young designers, unless they have a business plan and financial advisor (as Jacobs had Robert Duffy), most fail to join the ranks of Oscar de la Renta or Calvin Klein. This week, McCollough and Hernandez made it clear that Proenza Schouler will be the exception.

The designers have teamed up with art director Peter Miles (who previously worked with Jacobs himself) to revamp the Proenza Schouler website as part of the brand’s expansion. The duo recently sat down with BoF, where McCollough spoke about the importance of social media in developing not only sales but also branding. “Our original website, which we designed like three or four years ago, didn’t have a long-term plan; there was no business model.” E-commerce accounts for almost fifteen percent of the company’s estimated $50 million in annual sales, and the revamped website will be Proenza Schouler’s biggest “store”. With the unlimited reach of online, the company will also target European and Asian markets.

However, don’t expect the website to be your stock big-box corporate website. The site incorporates the personal charm and signature youthfulness Jack & Laz (as they are affectionately known) have incorporated in everything from their ad campaigns to their live-streaming runway shows, Twitter and Instagram accounts. “We grew up with the internet,” Hernandez told BoF. “It’s not something that we’re worried about; it’s not scary or some kind of magic box. It’s an amazing tool that helps us communicate with our friends and family and do research. It’s how we look at the world 90 percent of the time. It’s really interesting to see people’s point of view and see the curation of images from all these kids on Tumblr. These Internet projects come really naturally to us. We’re just interested in creativity.”

McCollough added, “This Internet aesthetic we’re talking about, there’s no nostalgia attached to it. It feels really new and I think that scares people. A lot of luxury brands like to fall back on nostalgia, because nostalgia feels luxurious to them. We’re into luxury, but we’re also equally interested in contemporary culture. We’re not sort of stifled by these plastic notions of what is elegant. There’s a certain part of us that loves traditional luxury; we love cashmere, we love leather and exotic skins. But what makes that fresh is to mix that with things that are completely of today, whether it’s new techniques that we use in our clothes or harnessing the Internet. It’s that mix that makes Proenza Schouler. The whole new, weird, contemporary Internet thing is fascinating to us.”

In the words of McCollough, “It’s not your mom’s luxury brand.”

Pictured above, from left to right, Lazaro Hernandez, model Liya Kebede, Jack McCollough, and actress Liv Tyler. Photo courtesy Proenza Schouler. To read more about Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, read the full interview on BoF.

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