Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are not new to this, but true to this. Which is why they’re feeling good mere hours after celebrating the spring/summer 2024 collection they just sent down the runway—the kind of stamina that comes from presenting collections at fashion week for the last 20 years. We’re taking a breather in the green room at Spring Studios in New York City after the duo just shared their thoughts on travel and design in a panel chat with Waldorf Astoria: Proenza Schouler’s latest partner, but not as unexpected a collaborator as you might think.
“These ideas have to come from somewhere; it’s really important that we go out there and see the world,” Hernandez tells ELLE.com. “We go to different galleries in different countries and cities and have new experiences—we can tap into that.” It made sense, then, to link up with a globally-renowned hospitality brand that has locations in more than a dozen countries, from China to the U.K. “It has to feel natural, because we don’t do a lot of collaborations. There are a lot of codes we share, including luxury and being founded in New York City. So it seems like we’re speaking to the same customer.”
The first part of the collaboration walked down the runway on Saturday: an icy blue sheer look with subtly placed cutouts that might be the edgiest garment the corridors of any Waldorf has ever seen. Blue is an eternal part of the design language for both brands, it turns out, so the color choice was synergistic. But the inspiration for the more permanent design that will show up in Waldorf Astoria’s hotels is a sweeter and even more personal story.
“We don’t make menswear, so when friends got married, we needed a gift that worked for everyone,” Hernandez shares. “We did this big, beautiful, double-face cashmere coat that Jack and I ended up turning into this king-sized, finished blanket for the bed. And when people would come over, they’d ask, ‘What is that blanket?’ We’ve been giving them as wedding gifts ever since.”
But when their stylist traipsed into their showroom draped in the blanket like an actual garment, it inspired the creative directors to start putting the blanket into their collections. And they didn’t think twice when Waldorf Astoria approached them about creating a product. “We thought, why don’t we design blankets to put in every room? It just seemed really obvious that we’d put one in every Waldorf suite,” Hernandez says.
Burgeoning partnerships aside, it’s a really emotional time for Proenza Schouler the brand, with its latest show bringing forth a mountain of feelings, not just for the audience, but for the duo and their team as well. “I cried,” McCollough confesses. “The music had a lot more emotion to it, so I think it brought that up. Everyone on our team backstage was crying, and we can never do what we do without the army of people who work for us.”
The brand has been going strong for more than two decades now, and with a celeb-studded front row featuring the likes of Ayo Edebiri, Pamela Anderson, and Sofia Richie Grainge, the level of expectation is higher than ever. Suffice to say, the pressure consistently mounts in the lead-up to the show. “We had something like 90 fittings for 40 looks, and the girls kept coming back and we kept changing them, dropping and adding looks, re-styling them,” Hernandez says. “Then we’d have a shoe change or a belt buckle shift. Everything is so specific, and the team feels like our precision requirements are quite high. There’s a pressure that nothing can be out of place, so everyone is on guard. It’s very tense.”
The brand is not just putting clothes out there, after all—they’re equally making a categorical statement that speaks to their mindset and creativity. “You’re saying something to the world that’s quite personal,” adds Hernandez. “Then you’re just putting this thing out there to be judged, and you can’t help but feel that.”
Coming out on the other side can feel like a daze for McCollough and Hernandez, after eschewing all other things as they’re building a new collection. “You have to figure out who you are again as a person and rebuild your life,” McCollough says. “We see our friends again who we’ve been completely ignoring. It’s weird to actually have time off after a show, because all we know is working on this one thing.”
The investment is so deep because McCollough and Hernandez’s souls are in the work—creating a constant rub with the need for commercial viability that no brand can afford to ignore. “Conceptually speaking, that’s why we thought it was interesting to show at Phillips auction house, because that’s kind of the place where creativity and artistry gets judged,” McCollough says. “We’ve been talking a lot about these themes of art and commerce, and how we blur the line between those two worlds. You can’t just have commerce for commerce’s sake without any soul or creativity in it. But then you can’t be making things that are so creative that they’re esoteric and don’t relate to a woman’s life.”
To recharge, the duo are gearing up for a few weeks overseas now that their newest work of art is out in the world. They’re heading to Rome for work (Hernandez’s first time properly hanging out in the city), then spending a week at Hotel Il Pellicano off the coast of Tuscany to get in some much-needed beach time, and then it’s off to Paris for market. “As creative people, we need to get out of the office and see things,” says Hernandez. “We have to meet new people, which sparks new conversations and makes us think of things differently. We have to seek inspiration wherever we are, so it’s important for us to get out of our routine and go away.”
The grind never ceases, but McCollough and Hernandez are most looking forward to their next vacations that will include them getting as far away as possible. “We want to go to Antarctica—that’s the next really big trip we want to take,” McCollough says. “I think for one of our next big birthdays, that’d be really cool. We also want to explore Asia more, and we want to go to Papua New Guinea.” Until then, even more of the world will get to interact with the craft they obsess over as travelers relax and recharge thanks to Proenza Schouler’s new partnership. Their work is never in vain, more than two decades of producing collections loved the world over is proof.