Motels, coffee houses, diners, bowling alleys, filling stations in 1950s suburban America: what can be particularly stylish about them? Exactly ‒ zero, zilch, zip. But the designing duo, Jack McCullough and Lazarus Hernandez, behind the New York-based scorching hot label Proenza Scholuler took this questionable-tasted, world-weary make-up and turned it on its head ‒ to deliver a collection that was tastefully vibrant, understandably upscale and wonderfully svelte.
Emerging car culture and fascination with nuclear power and space flights in 1950s America gave rise to a form of flashy, futuristic building style called Googie architecture, which went on to shape the landscape of suburban, mainly west coast, America of the time. By the mid-1960s it became offensive to people’s aesthetics; and now, it sits in obscurity. It is this lost optimism surrounding the mid-century roadside architectural sub-genre that the duo attempted to breathe new life into through their S/S’12 line. And quite smartly they did: 1950s strict, streamlined silhouettes were modernized with cut-out details, abstract prints and textures, with flashes of yellow and aqua over a drab palette of gray, white, brown and black.
The collection started off with shapely jackets and shorts in dark brown and black patterns that brought to mind a gaudy 50’s basement with cheap wood paneling (but in a nice way!). Faux- zebra and tiger prints, reminiscent of 1950’s car seat interior, popped up as curving panels in skirts, blouses, jackets and shorts, and as a trim on a cropped white cotton blouse ‒ and instead of looking cheap they came across quite exquisite and elegant!
Giving nod to the exotic of the west coast, bandeau tops, swimwear-esque bodysuits, tightly woven raffia dresses were sent out, in an island-y palette of coral and chartreuse, which somewhat lifted the mood away from the austere.
But the collection sprang to life and became special once the glossy, futuristic eel (yep, that slimy fish’s!) skin came into the scene. A striped tank-style sundress slashed to the thigh made with papery eel-skin had the fun, urban edge that the label is known for. Soon came – what could be ‒ the ultimate take on season’s two runaway trends: print and colour-blocking. High-waited, knee-length skirts, made with papery eel-skin, were paired with tulle T-shirts – but the teal/orange colour of the skirts crept into the geometric prints of the T-shirts, so the twosome ended up looking rather stylish than garish… 2-for-1, voilà!
And the last two dresses ‒cut out of embroidered tulle into a very of-the-current-moment long-sleeved, belted sheath, it oozed out retro elegance and opulent glamour while remaining chipper and upbeat ‒were quintessentially Googie. Reflection of prosperity, and hence forward-looking ‒ precisely what Googie architecture once stood for.
For a positively futuristic take on the familiar, this was undoubtedly one of the influential collections to come out of the Spring/Summer 2012 calendar.