Proenza Schouler for M.A.C: An exclusive chat with Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez about the beauty collab

Proenza Schouler MACPhotography by Carlo Mendoza

See the entire Proenza Schouler for M.A.C collection »

They say that youth is wasted on the young, but Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez haven’t frittered theirs away. In 2002, at only 23, they launched Proenza Schouler, which has gone global. But in spite of running one of the most coveted labels in the world, they retain an air of boyish charm.

Seated in a suite in London’s Claridge’s hotel, both are in rumpled clothes and sneakers: Hernandez’s are New Balance, McCollough’s are Adidas. They’re here to discuss their partnership with M.A.C, a brand that has paved the way for designer makeup collaborations—Alexander McQueen, Rodarte and Gareth Pugh are a few it’s teamed with. “We don’t even think of them as collaborations,” says James Gager, senior vice-president and group creative director. “My attitude is these are just people who are part of our brand.” Given that M.A.C has been the beauty sponsor for Proenza’s shows since 2008, it’s a wonder it didn’t happen sooner. (Note: The designers still want to create their first fragrance, and are fielding offers. “We’re seeing who makes the best one,” Hernandez says coyly at dinner.)

While their designs are often inspired by their travels, Proenza’s own archives provided the jumping-off point for the makeup. “We were looking back at different collections, and we wanted to find one that was very evocative for the mood that we wanted,” says Hernandez. They settled on the tie-dye collection from Spring 2011 for its beachy, outdoorsy quality.

Beauty-wise, they favour keeping the models on the Proenza runways looking natural and minimal courtesy of makeup artist Diane Kendal; her formula includes barely made-up skin, a bit of a brow, no mascara, a dash of concealer and a swipe of lip balm. The aesthetic works because the clothes have so much going on. “There’s craft and technique and colour, as well as textile development,” says Hernandez. They also think the look exudes confidence. “You don’t feel you have to hide behind this face of makeup,” says McCollough. “It’s not about a façade.”

But rather than replicate their show look in the makeup collection, the pair approached it the same way they do their clothing. “It’s always something we work with on a formal level, the idea of exploring colour, and different finishes and surfaces of colour,” says Hernandez. The result is a 15-piece collection of lipsticks, ombre blushes, nail polishes and eye and lip pencils in shades they consider timeless—tomato red, nude, cool pink, deep plum and black.

While revisiting the tie-dye collection, Hernandez and McCollough remembered that they’d done “cool, weird” hardware for necklaces in an anodized, hyper-heated metal that looks like an oil slick. “We thought, ‘Oh my God, it would be really cool to do packaging like that,’ because we never really explored that. We do a lot of things like that where we go to town on these crazy experimental things, and then it becomes, like, a button,” says Hernandez. “So much work for a button!” The idea turned out to be a technical challenge for M.A.C. “It was up to us to figure out a way to manufacture it,” recalls Gager. “If you look at the surfaces, there are curved ones, flat ones, ones that go all the way around.” But the boys persevered. “We’re used to people telling us, ‘You can’t make that fabric, it’s not doable,’” says Hernandez. “And we’re like, ‘Try again! I think it might be!’”

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