NYFW S/S '12 report: Proenza Schouler

15 September 2011

What is it with this African beat that has taken over NY fashion week? The shag pile carpet on the floor of Proenza Schouler’s venue was almost thick enough to render the Savannah plains on the West Side highway (well it was the right colour anyway).  But no one was quite convinced that the Out of Africa story that started at Donna Karan and gathered a pace at Micheal Kors had really gained traction at Proenza Schouler: NY’s coolest fashion duo.

There is something oddly detached about taking such a far flung fashion trip when most customers are mired in day to day realities that are so much more mundane. And some of the Africa stories have been so literal as to have felt like 42nd St renditions.

Anyway, the driving drum beat and opening outfit of tailored jackets and shorts (heavens above, can anyone save us from a summer in tailored shorts?) with inset panels of tiger stripes confirmed that we were, yet again, on the safari trail. These boys love print and textile but I like to think they you go to them for some painterly experiment that is the result of months of research in the studio. This collection is the last place I’d look for leopard.

One leading online retailer who sat near the British press entertained anyone within earshot with her story that there has been a leaked memo from some unknown entity urging leading US designers to ‘do Africa’ this season. Who on earth could that be? Has Kofi Anan set up a fashion department without telling anyone? Sounds like a far fetched conspiracy forecasting theory to me. But it made for good front row gossip until this show reached about a third of the way in and suddenly became fabulous.

With the arrival of raffia woven dresses in Mad Men shapes and A line leather skirts and printed shirts this collection stepped out of the costume department and became something much more intriguing: call it an experiment in 40’s femininity mashed up with textures from the African landscape. It made for a much more interesting story and some of the most covetable clothes of the week..

The final cocktail dresses cut close to the body with sharp shoulders, naked backs and a sprinkling of sparkly embroidery had a whiff of Wallis Simpson on walkabout. Something that might have veered off into caricature closed with convincing new fashion characters. I’ll save up to buy that.

- Paula Reed in New York


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