Live music and deconstructed knitwear at Proenza Schouler

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Fashion from Proenza Schouler collection is modeled during Fashion Week, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK – The Surrealist aesthetic of Swiss artist Meret Oppenheim was an inspiration for Proenza Schouler’s latest collection, a series of eclectic silhouettes and flowing designs displayed at a downtown Manhattan art center on Friday afternoon.

Kicking off a New York Fashion Week that will feature live runway shows but still has some top designers sitting it out due to the ongoing pandemic, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez offered their guests live string music, to a composition by the Queens-based musician Eartheater, as they displayed exaggerated forms often focused on the waist, with voluminous garments coming together at the center to wrap or hug the body.

The theme, the designers said, was experimentation and play — more important than ever, they said, as people navigate a pandemic that has changed the way everyone lives.

“Entering a new moment in time, thoroughly transformed,” they wrote in their production notes. “The question of what we are all stepping into — what it will look like, and what qualities will define it... How do we find beauty in the chaos?"

As violinists played, the runway show, staged at the Brant Foundation, an art study center in Manhattan's East Village, began with sculpted knitwear and combined bold colors — yellow, purple, bright red — with black and white ensembles. Typical of the designers' work was a theme of deconstructed garments. “Construction is eliminated, letting the yarn itself do all the shaping,” the designers explained.

There was a focus on peplums, or strips of fabric attached to the waist of dresses or skirts or tops, in various forms — short and ruffled, or longer, on a voluminous skirt or layered over an oversized trench.

The duo often chooses themes of tension between extremes, and this Fall/Winter 2022 collection was no exception, focusing on the concepts of control and release — “compressing but also exaggerating form,” as they described it.

The designers also often choose artists as inspiration, and this time it was Oppenheim, whose work they said served as “a central point of reference for the collection’s recontextualization of traditional codes of dress.” Oppenheim, who died in 1985, will be the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art beginning later this year. She is best known for her Surrealist sculpture “Luncheon in Fur,” a fur-lined teacup, saucer and spoon.

Among top designers sitting out this Fashion Week is Tom Ford, who was due to close out the week but said he could not finalize a collection due to COVID-related staffing issues. He's expected to show a virtual collection later this year.