This season, the fusion of “Beuys-y” and Calder is taking the shape of soft evening dresses and man-tailored suits sexed up with the heavily boned lingerie that has become a signature for the label—usually in the form of tightly fitted bustiers. There are bustiers this time, of course, but now there are also girdles sticking right up out of a pair of low-slung trousers and fastened on top of a fitted blazer. The boys are working in their Chinatown studio with their fit model Soos, a lanky redhead who looks far more like a fashion illustration (all sharp jutting angles and irrationally long limbs) than an actual person, and two seamstresses. The designers are dressed almost identically, in well-worn corduroy Levi’s and T-shirts. McCollough’s arms are covered with tattoos; Hernandez is wearing a cardigan, but the overall look is the same: a distressed preppy who’s discovered the East Village.
The designers circle Soos: First McCollough is in front, then Hernandez. When McCollough concentrates, he bites his nails; Hernandez furrows his brow and purses his lips. When they do meet at, say, Soos’s side, McCollough, who has a cold, might rest his head, for a second, on Hernandez’s shoulder.
Mostly, they affirm each other.
“Is it weird here?” McCollough wants to know.
“It’s cute here,” Hernandez says, waving his hand across the butt.
“You know what would be good? Suspenders,” says McCollough.
Hernandez makes a face; McCollough agrees immediately.
“Yeah, I guess the adjustment things would be hard.”
And how far up should the girdle go? The sewer wants to know.
“It’s perfect,” they say. The simultaneity of the proclamation is eerie.
It’s a bit of a fashion parlor game to pronounce which of these boys is the talent, which the hustler. But considering how young they were when they met, it’s a mistake to say that their strong aesthetic is more the product of one’s mind than the other’s: To see such polish and signature come out of such young designers suggests that maybe it really is the fusion of the two perspectives that makes it so grown-up. McCollough says he’s the dreamer of the two, the more painterly, the more fantastical. Hernandez is more concerned with wearability. Or at least it was that way when they joined up, but they’ve been working together so long that neither really developed an independent philosophy. They’re still figuring out who is better at what. “He was really painterly, really fine-arty,” says Hernandez. “That was really attractive to me. When I first met Jack, he was doing all this crazy Japanese-y thing that was very costume-y. I was very ready-to-wear, and so to me it was really fascinating. He brought this level of imagination to things. He was definitely way fantastic.”
(Neither is the business brawn—for that they have Shirley Cook, 25, whom they met through a mutual friend. It’s Shirley’s job to explain to the factories that no, they don’t need all that fabric, and who told the factory to take orders from Lazaro, anyway?)
It varies from season to season who does what. “One season I’ll do all the dresses and he’ll do all the coats,” says McCollough. “And then we’ll be like, ‘Oh, wow, I guess I’m good at dresses and Lazaro’s good at coats.’ And then we’ll totally shift around.”
They do every single fitting together—both pinching, folding, puzzling together over just how short is “like, vulgar.”
Maybe, but they’re both looking forward to living apart.
“Jack’s been, like, my best friend for like five years,” says Hernandez. “When we first met, I was a teenager. I’ve obviously changed a lot, and what we’ve been through in the past five years has really been kind of crazy. He’s just like my best friend, but we’ve, like, learned how to be adults together. We had not one responsibility in the world four years ago, and now we have all the responsibility in the world and we’ve sort of done it together. So he’s taught me how to be an adult, I guess.”
“So sweet!” says McCollough. “Sometimes I’m like, ‘Fuck you! I’m starting my own company, I don’t want to deal with you.’ ”
“And sometimes I’m like, ‘Fuck you! I don’t want to make that black dress!’ ”
“We have our moments of nastiness.”
“As with anyone.”
“We always fight a lot right before the show.”
“When you’re a kid and you’re pissed off at school or something, you come home and take it out on your mom because you know that she’s just there.”
“It’s hard separating work from personal life,” says McCollough. “We’ll get into an argument about a button at work and then when we leave it’s like, ‘Don’t talk to me. I’m still mad at you about that button.’ ”