Fashion designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler debuts their first fragrance during New York fashion week.
by SunHee Grinnell
Tonight, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez are relaxed, freshly back from a holiday after showing their fall 2018 collection in Paris. A massive crowd including the likes of Chloe Sevigny, Sienna Miller, Dakota Fanning, and even Jonah Hill is in the house at Skylight Modern in Chelsea despite the rain to celebrate the designers’ fragrance debut, Arizona.
“It feels so good to finally show and share this with everyone because it’s been so hush-hush for so long,” says the designers, “it’s the first time we are actually seeing the final bottle with the juice, it’s so exciting!” The DJ is swelling up the crowd with house music, the vibe is young and cool. Sza is on stage, smoke machine pumping out fog with laser lights enhancing the mood, the jammers are into it, big time.
Two years ago, these New York based designers decided to show their ready-to-wear collection in Paris for strategic business reasons— namely to profit more sales. It was a simple equation for the boys, because when your clothes are on the floor longer, your sell-through is higher and your business grows. But also creatively speaking, “it’s nice to switch things up,” admitted both McCollough and Hernandez in conversation back in October.
So when and how did the fragrance portion come about? “We’ve always been told that, you can’t approach a fragrance house, that we had to wait, that ‘you can’t go to them, they have to come to you!’” recalled the designers with laughter, then adding, “but we always wanted to do a fragrance, it’s most designers dream to have a fragrance and it feels like the next chapter to take.” Yes, for most fashion designers having a their branded perfume serves as a career signature in a way and for most, it certainly reaches a much broader demographic. “Our clothes serve more of those niche customers, so it’s great to have a bigger reach of an audience - through the fragrance.” It didn’t take long for L’Oreal Paris to finally came knocking, which was their actual fragrance house wish of choice after witnessing how much success this beauty giant garnered for the haute-couture designing duo Viktor and Rolf with Flowerbomb.
For McCollough and Hernandez, the inspiration portion for the fragrance was the easy part. They travel a lot, from road trip explorations to studying and observing other cultures, to escape and find inspiration along the way.
“We took a road to trip to land out west - Arizona, Utah, and we love art from James Turrell to Walter de Maria, and all that good stuff in Marfa - the beauty of outdoors and just the idea of needing to escape and disconnecting from the world is the ultimate luxury to us,” the designers expressed in tandem, then continuing, “to have the time and space to actually think and be creative and get in your head.”That idea resonated with them because they felt that’s what people are really wanting to do and needing to feel lately. That temporary escape from chaos of the internet, from the phones and from peoples lives in general. So they decided to call the fragrance, Arizona, as in “a state of mind,” not the state. “It’s an idea, it’s a woman’s name...spirit of disconnection and freedom,” explained the designers.
After having this revelation, they shipped home a pile of rocks, minerals and crystals that they found and collected on their road trip, then brought them to their first L’Oreal meeting with the perfumers. “That was the kind of abstract starting point and to build it from there,” said McCollough and Hernandez. As for the bottle, they were going for an art object. “We wanted the inside to be as abstract as the outside. We wanted a mid-way point from a crystal to a classic fragrance bottle, a mixture of those two worlds coming together.” And that’s precisely how it got translated into fragrance notes while working with two perfumers who posses very different approaches and style when it comes to perfume making.
One of the perfumers is a New York-based, revered nose Carlos Benaim (who happens to be the creator of highly acclaimed Flowerbomb and countless other greatest hits) and the other, Loc Dong, who is based in Paris.
Once they had a collective understanding of the designers and their modern and artistic style, “Highlighting the contrast was tremendous and very important. Taking in the contradiction between what’s man-made and what’s natural, which is very present in the fabrics in their fashion,” explained Benaim. “Along with crystals and minerality being an important factor,” added Dong. The two perfumers looked to a very unusual flower, white cactus, which only blooms one night once a year to capture its essence. Arizona is the first and only fragrance to have this floral note and the other accords were built around the fleeting flower.
“The brand was looking for this kind of innovation and craftsmanship which pushed us to think in this direction along with rocks and minerals in mind. What can we find in the desert? That’s how we narrowed down to this flower,” said Dong. “And to contrast this flower,” emulating the technological part of their fashion, “we created an accord around the Orris flower root, leaning more towards classical, traditional perfumery,” added Benaim. Along with a combination of green floral jasmine, which gives you that transparent wetness and orange blossom, then adding musk and cashmeran evokes a sensorial journey. “It’s the dry feeling of the rocks, it’s floral, it’s bright and the texture of the warmth from the minerality,” added Dong, and the scent certainly recalls nature in that feminine way with a patented bottle design that mimics a transparent rock.
“The feel of warm stone, wet dirt, solar sun...it’s a daytime fragrance, you can feel the sun in a way but it’s definitely more like dawn than dusk. It’s a daytime expression,” stated McCollough and Hernandez. After two and a half years in the making of Arizona, they are certainly in a high-spirited state of mind, especially tonight but added humbly, “we learned that making a fragrance is really an art form - an abstract art form that we really come to appreciate,” gushed the designers.