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Celebrating the off-kilter at Proenza Schouler

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Watching the first models emerge at the Proenza Schouler runway show, you could have been forgiven for thinking everyone simply forgot to properly adjust their outfits before hitting the runway. Didn't they have a mirror backstage?

A black knit dress, a roomy dark wool coat, a double green breasted suit jacket, a similar jacket in a dark plaid — all were tugged down to expose an errant shoulder. It became quickly obvious that this was the point: to take a common shape, then twist it just a little off kilter.

The jumping-off point was a blanket. We'd all probably love to wear only a cozy blanket all winter, forgoing formal clothes, and designers Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez apparently started with that idea. In a rather abstractly worded set of show notes describing the collection, they wrote that “The Proenza Schouler woman steps into a new unpredictable decade ... blanketed in a protective layer of strength and confidence.” It described the clothes as “warm, round, enveloping,” and indeed, the coats were especially broad and roomy, with space for the large sweaters underneath and a whole lot more.

But there were also tightly fitted dresses, leathery shifts wound securely around the body like a bandage. “The delicate balance of generous volumes twisted and wrapped around the body fastened by a single closure calls to mind the tension of control and release” of much of the label's clothes, they wrote.

Some of the most interesting garments looked like a slice of pie had been carved out in a spot or two. A velvet long-sleeved dress had a triangle of bare skin at the waist, and another at the clavicle. A black knit dress was missing one shoulder and a piece of the waist.

Another striking element on the Proenza runway this season: the thigh-high slouchy leather boots — in black, white, tan, brown — that looked somehow both comfy and tough, appropriately enough for a collection emphasizing duality.