Hernandez, Lazaro and McCollough, Jack
Hernandez, Lazaro and McCollough, JackCareer
Fashion designers for Proenza Schouler
B orn Lazaro Hernandez, c. 1979, in Miami; son of Fulgencio (an oil company representative) and Estella (a beauty shop owner) Hernandez. Born Jack McCollough, c. 1979, in Montclair, N.J.; son of Huston (an investment banker) and Joan McCollough. Education: Hernandez: Attended University of Miami, c. 1998; Parsons The New School for Design, B.A., 2002. McCollough: Attended San Francisco Art Institute, c. 1998; Parsons The New School for Design, B.A., 2002.
Addresses: Contact—PR Consulting, 304 Hudson St., 6th Flr., New York, NY 10013. E-mail— mailproenzaschouler.com. Office—Proenza Schouler, 120 Walker St., 6th Flr., New York, NY 10013. Web site—http://www.proenzaschouler.com
H ernandez and McCollough met at Parsons The New School for Design, c. 1999; co-founded Proenza Schouler, 2002; served as co-designers for the company, 2002—.
Awards: Swarovski’s Perry Ellis Award for Ready-to-Wear, CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America), 2003; contest winner, CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, 2004; Womenswear Designer of the Year (shared with Oscar de la Renta), CFDA, 2007.
S ince founding the apparel company Proenza Schouler in 2002, fashion designers Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough have quickly distinguished themselves as emerging leaders in the world of style. Their fashions—with lush yet mod embellishments—are youthful, showy, and finely tailored. When Proenza Schouler first hit the market, its clothes were available only at high-end luxury stores like Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman. In 2007, however, Proenza Schouler launched a more affordable limited-edition collection through Target.
The brand is a favorite among A-list celebrities, including Demi Moore, Kirsten Dunst, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, who each have walked down the red carpet at the Academy Awards sporting the Proenza Schouler label. A vote of market confidence came in 2007 when the Valentino Fashion Group put down $3.7 million to purchase a 45 percent stake in the company, helping solidify a bright future for the already successful duo.
Hernandez was born in Miami in the late 1970s to Cuban immigrants Fulgencio and Estella Hernandez. Fulgencio Hernandez worked as an oil company representative, while Estella Hernandez operated a beauty salon. As a child, Hernandez spent innumerable hours in his mother’s shop, taking in the customers and noticing their various styles of dress. “All there was to do was to sit reading Vogue, Elle, and Cosmo,” Hernandez told People magazine. “That imagery got stuck in my head.”
Initially, Hernandez wanted to become a doctor and enrolled as a pre-med student at the University of Miami. In 1998, he visited New York and caught the fashion bug after meeting some designers and realizing he could probably forge a satisfying career in the industry. He transferred to New York’s famed Parsons The New School for Design where he met another young aspiring designer—Jack McCollough.
McCollough, the son of Huston and Joan McCol-lough, was born in the late 1970s and grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. His father worked as an international investment banker for Merrill Lynch. McCollough took an early interest in tailoring and received his first sewing machine at 14. As a youngster, he identified with the hippie movement and sported dreadlocks. McCollough attended Walnut Hill, an independent boarding school for the arts located near Boston. He studied visual arts, intending to become a glassblower. After graduating from Walnut Hill in 1997, McCollough briefly studied at the San Francisco Art Institute before enrolling at Parsons in 1998. Soon after, he met Hernandez and the two became fast friends.
Another serendipitous event that helped foster the designers’ careers occurred in 2000 when Hernandez boarded a flight at Miami airport and eyed Vogue editor Anna Wintour stepping aboard the plane. Wintour was a leading inspiration in Hernandez’s choice to pursue a career in fashion. Hernandez grabbed a napkin and scribbled a note to Wintour discussing his devotion to the industry and his respect for her work. Within weeks, Hernandez received a call from a Michael Kors representative offering him an internship at the prolific label. The representative said Wintour had recommended him for the job. McCollough honed his skills working an internship at Marc Jacobs.
Hernandez and McCollough persuaded their Parsons instructors to let them do a joint thesis project. “They had such incredible synergy,” former Parsons fashion design chairman Tim Gunn told New York magazine’s Amy Larocca. “During their junior year, it became really clear that they shared a vision and a philosophy.” At Parsons, the dazzling duo honed their craft under the direction of Gunn, who went on to become the mentor for contestants on the Bravo show Project Runway.
As part of their final project, the pair created a collection of clothing and dubbed their label Proenza Schouler (pronounced Pro-EN-za SKOOL-er). The name is derived from their mothers’ maiden names. Barneys fashion director Julie Gilhart was so impressed she bought the whole lot. Instantly, Proenza Schouler moved from a senior-year project to a full-fledged design firm. Gilhart liked how the clothes seemed effortlessly sophisticated. In order to produce a run of the collection for Barneys, Hernandez and McCollough borrowed money from their parents. Soon, other stores were inquiring about their designs.
Their collections are truly collaborations. Hernandez and McCollough spend time and effort melding their ideas. The designers have developed a process. After they roll out a new collection, they take a vacation. When they are ready to begin designs for the next season, they sit down and discuss their moods. Then, they go their separate ways, each doing research by poring over photographs and drawings and pulling together a collection of images that evoke positive emotions. When they really like something, they copy it and tuck it in an inspiration book, sharing copies with the other. Next, they begin sketching, working independently for several weeks before comparing designs. At this point, they say they find a lot of similarities to work with. But there is also compromise. As Hernandez told Larocca: “One of us might be feeling long when the other one is feeling short. So then we’re just, like, ‘Let’s do both.’ Like, miniskirts with long coats over it.”
This unique process seems to work. Over the past few years, the label has expanded its territory and moved into international markets. Proenza Schouler rolled out a shoe collection with the Italian manufacturer Iris, developed a watch for Movado and a camera case for Hewlett-Packard. In 2007, the label expanded its accessibility with a limited-edition line at Target. That year, the Proenza Schouler runway collection included a $1,150 blazer, but at Target, fans could get a blazer for $39.99. When the Target selection sold out, the items showed up on eBay, often selling for several times the initial price.
In the early days, Hernandez and Lazaro lived and worked together in a New York City loft. They have since moved into separate apartments. At times, fashion-world rumblings have suggested the two are more than just business partners. Speaking to Phoebe Eaton of Harper’s Bazaar, Lazaro classified their relationship as “undefined.”
Vogue editor André Leon Talley is not surprised by the pair’s meteoric success. “These are not just styl-ists,” he told New York magazine. “Their greatest strength is their appreciation of the construction of clothes: the tailoring, the linings, the seams—all are done perfectly, and that’s what makes them great.”
Flare, March 2008, pp. 56-58.
Harper’s Bazaar, September 2007, pp. 550-53.
People, December 15, 2003, pp. 101-02.
Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2007, p. B1. WWD, April 4, 2006, p. 11.
“1+1=1: Deconstructing the Collaborative Process of the Proenza Schouler Boys,” New York magazine, http://nymag.com/nymetro/shopping/fashion/spring05/11014/ (May 9, 2008).
“Two Stylish,” New York magazine, http://nymag.com/nymetro/shopping/fashion/features/n_8809/ (May 9, 2008).