There is a strategy to scheduling a string of fashion shows such as Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. While there are genuinely only a handful of designers with enough name recognition to enjoy broad appeal, putting them all too close together or too early in the schedule keeps buyers and editors from hanging around to see some of the smaller, lesser known designers who could really use the break. Since New York’s Fashion Week is the first of four, internationally, there is also the danger that if all the big names come too early in the week people may jump on a plane early and head to London. So, as we hit the last day of fashion week the lineup is fairly predictable with Ralph Lauren leading a day that includes J. Mendel, Calvin Klein and finally Marc Jacobs. This quartet of heavy hitters largely guarantees no one is leaving early. At least, that’s the way it works most seasons.
This year, there was a difficult decision to make. The presence of an approaching winter storm caused many to leave earlier than they wished or else risk being caught in New York longer than they had intended. More than a few boarded London-bound flights Thursday afternoon, anxious to get out of town before the snow started flying. This morning, those who stayed had to fight their way through sometimes blizzard conditions in order to make their way to the lower West side location where Ralph Lauren’s show was held. “This had better be worth it,” was a sentiment I heard more than once.
While the show was later than usual starting, giving everyone ample time to arrive, Ralph Lauren delivered with a large collection that, thankfully, looked nothing like the clothes designed for the United States Olympic Team. Yes, there was some speculation whether the designer might try to recapitulate the clothes he designed for Soshi, but that was not the case. In fact, Lauren came at us with a very large, very fresh, and very comfortable collection that, if forced to describe it in one word, is best defined as soft.
As though he had anticipated the unseemly weather, Lauren brought a collection of clothes that was very well suited for the weather. Even the little black dresses that started the show came with leggings. He followed those with brightly colored down coats that were exactly what people were wanting this morning. Pre-orders on those coats alone most likely paid for the show. This is a comfortable collection, well layered with cotton and knit wool, so that one’s wardrobe can endure whatever mother nature decides to throw at us and still manage to look good.
Each section of the show had very popular pieces. On the most casual front, plaid reigns supreme. Matched with bomber jackets lined with heavy fleece, thick skirts designed like blankets from the American Southwest, leggings, wool socks, and rugged footwear, the looks are sufficiently layered so that one doesn’t swelter when sitting inside by the fire, but is sufficiently covered when trudging through the snow. There is some sense of adventure to the clothes, a longing for the outdoors, but with the common sense to know that going out in a blizzard without being sufficiently covered can kill you.
Moving more into the city and daywear, the looks and colors were softer. Cashmere and suede were the fabrics of favor, and the monochrome looks were well tailored and professional. Yet, even here, Lauren keeps a casual touch with high top trainers in place of heels. How many people will actually dare to wear the shoes with such attractive clothing remains to be seen, but the practicality of the style is one long overdue.
Of course, there is formal wear that elicited plenty of oohs and ahhs, but even here the designer keeps an eye on the weather. Necklines run higher than usual and Lauren even integrates turtlenecks and high collars in very tasteful fashion. Only with the final set of gowns do we see anything that might be a bit drafty, and presumably those are largely reserved for the red carpets of Southern California.
New York is a very cold and unfriendly place to be this morning, but Ralph Lauren delivered a collection that is as warm and inviting as anyone could want.