Sometimes a location is a statement of intent. Proenza Schouler’s Wednesday night was the (old) Whitney Museum, the fabulously imposing Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue and 74th, soon to be the temporary home of contemporary art for the Met. The implication was clear enough: The other guys are making fashion. Proenza Schouler is art.
The collection, an explanation from the designers ran, “takes its cue from the New York School,” not only in the art itself — they mentioned the paintings of Helen Frankenthaler in particular, as well as the thinky conceptualism of Robert Morris — but the way that “the midcentury movement that shifted the focus of the art world to New York for the first time in art history.”
It’s not a big leap to make the parallel plain: Proenza Schouler is one of a very small number of designers who seem capable of exciting the kind of attention in Europe’s fashion capitals as they do in New York. (Not for nothing was LVMH rumored to be circling last August, with an eye to acquiring a stake in the line.)
Coats and dresses both wrapped and gaped, revealing dotted tights. Shoes wound around the feet and closed in knots. The finale looks were practically pagan, spotted with embroidery and sprouting feathers.
The whole collection went down with a bit of shock, as contemporary art can do. Just ask contemporary artists and their patrons in the gallery and curatorial worlds. Plenty of them made the trek up Madison to take it in: the artists Tauba Auerbach, Emily Sundblad and Nate Lowman; the photographers David Sims and Craig McDean; Amy Greenspon, the gallerist; and Klaus Biesenbach, the local genius of MoMA’s PS1. — MATTHEW SCHNEIER