For Autumn/Winter 2010 the midriff is officially back. Make a note. First Alexander Wang sliced chunks out of his tailoring to emphasise that long-forgotten erogenous zone - then Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler, the other contenders to the crown as New York's fashion fountain of youth, chose to slice and dice just about every piece of their latest collection about this midway point. Rather than Wang's cutout and cutaway play on sexuality, for the Proenza boys the game seemed to be cropping proportion: jackets were sliced off well above the waist, skirts barely grazed the very upper echelons of the thigh, and in both cases the fullness of the garments served only to emphasise their brevity. Skirts were pleated, sliced with sloping side-seams to sit far-out on the waist, psychedelic babydoll dresses belled out into swinging sack-backs, and those tiny bolero-brief coats were cut so wide their facing fell over the arms. Some of the evening dresses did have cut-outs, with contrast inserts and straps winding around the body like remnants of their much-fted scuba collection of spring, only in this case carving out holes onto the body while simultaneously suspending acres of short, bouncy skirt. The only things that fell any lower than the knee were a couple of heavy cloth coats, and second-skin trousers suctioned against the models' flesh-stripped limbs (especially difficult to pull off in scribble-print denim).
These games of chopping up the body with undersized garments has been played by Hernandez and McCollough many times before - indeed, it's become something of a Proenza Schouler hallmark, hence why their experiments this time looked so competent. Where many others failed, the duo knew how to manipulate proportion into a strong and directional catwalk statement. Seen as a whole, this collection was incredibly - some may say incredulously - young. Those babydoll shapes, with their shrunken shoulders and short fullness, had a Lolita quality, a disturbing combination of infantilism and knowing adult sexuality. In the nineties, they called it Kinderwhore - and with that decade roaming wild through the annals of fashion, perhaps it was more than coincidence that Proenza Schouler conjured up its many incarnations, from hefty, whorish pedestal-heel platforms to spindle-narrow stockinged legs sticking out of capacious, crotch-length silk-faille flounces (some so short they even showed a slither of flesh between opaque stocking'd thigh and dress hem).
Outerwear was more accessible - those tiny cropped duffle-coats may have looked infantile when worn with schoolgirl navy pinafores on the catwalk, but when paired with the high-waisted jeans they had an appealing slickness, albeit with a quirky edge. That edge, indeed, came across in the pattern and palette - a sludgy, dirty rainbow of bruise, olive and mulberry, loden green for coats and jackets (some even reaching the waist) and some smudged prints that resembled insect wings or marbled patterns. When these were shown as short cocktail frocks, they suddenly looked like an edgy and appealing option for evening - albeit with the addition of a few extra inches to the hems. The one thing that didn't require any adaptation, however, were the heavy, boxy hardware-strewn handbags clutched like weapons in the models hands. Lest we forget their solid business minds, the Proenza Schouler boys offered these for pre-order on their website immediately after the show.