Proenza Schouler: 10 Years In-The-Making Store Opening
July 13, 2012 by J.T.
Two, ten, and eight hundred and eighty two. These three numbers hold significant meanings for Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, co-creative directors of Proenza Schouler. The two, who were at one time an item, hit the fashion scene selling even before receiving their college diploma, receiving critical acclaim from the industry’s top critics and magazines. Their brand of “below-Houston Street chic” was exactly what retailers and clients were clamoring for; so much so that clothes were selling as quickly as they were arriving on Barney’s racks.
Fast forward ten years, the pair have gone through their ups and downs. They were no longer a couple but they were still collaborating together under the brand named after their respective mother’s maiden names. Their camaraderie, mutual creative respect and openness to opposing viewpoints helped keep the other in check, resulting in collections that imbue the best of both of them. But this union was not without issue; despite their ability to swoon magazine and critics, the brand was struggling to remain profitable. PS was selling clothes, but it was unable to meet demand in a timely matter.
Not having financial backing at one time meant that the house couldn’t afford to have a surplus, resulting in minimal to quick stock outages that would frustrate buyers. Even after the the Valentino SpA 45% investment, the design house could not properly refine its supply chain to ensure profit margins were relative to investment costs. This resulted in a short lived and strained relationship that was only relieved when the Valentino group unloaded its financial stake in the company. Alone and uncertain about their next steps, the duo found the ‘Kate’ to their ‘Moss’ when
Theory group* a group of investors led by Andrew Rosen and John Howard of Theory* bought into their vision and company. On better financial footing, and leveraging Fast Retailing Inc’s infrastructure and management resources*, PS was poised for a comeback.
Streamlined supply chains meant lower production costs and, in turn, higher profit margins. Since Proenza Schouler was never priced for the low to mid tier consumer, pricing could remain at historic levels; in fact, lowering the costs following such a significant transition would have been perceived as a sign of weakness. Jack and Lazaro are not a pair to blink at the fashion poker table. Instead, they hedged their bets on retailing as being their company’s future, which brings us to the next number.
Eight hundred and eighty two Madison Avenue is the street address of their first and only brick and mortar store. Nearly ten years in the making, the two finally realized the dream of opening up shop next door to some of the biggest names in fashion. Set in the prestigious boutique row section of the Upper East Side, their concrete, metal grating, cactus laden, dark wood floor store will open up shop on July 13 alongside neighbors Dolce & Gabanna, Jil Sander, Celine, Chanel, and Oscar de La Renta to name a few. Featuring nearly all of their current ready to wear, accessories, and handbags, the two story, 2000 sq. ft. store will be the de facto flagship until further locations are launched in Soho and beyond.
The store’s inside may appear a little brusque for the tastes of the UES crowd but it is for that reason that the pair have decided to start from the top and work their way down, geographically speaking. While many below Prince Street would welcome seeing the two somewhere between Bleecker and Grand, the need to attract wealthy clients willing to pay top dollar for their brand of sublime coolness is critical to future growth.
Time will tell if this bet pays off. Still, if history has proven anything, Proenza Schouler will continue to ascend the fashion ladder, redefining categories that don’t exist in the American luxury lexicon and in the process, becoming the trailblazers that they’ve always been since college.
* Article modified upon request of Mona Sharf / Theory group
See the photos below:
Photos by Lexie Moreland Courtesy of wwd