Ralph Lauren’s sojourns to the English countryside and the American Southwest are the stuff of legend. For fall, the designer took a major detour, traveling eastward to Shanghai.
The trip made for an air of mystery and plenty of high chic.
Perhaps Lauren was making a statement about fashion’s new East-West reality, and the ever-expanding importance of China in fashion’s modern reality. Certainly there was a distinct East-meets-West theme, albeit a retro one; an exiting photographer noted shades of the Chinese-American film star Anna May Wong. There were also ample Deco references that heightened the sly subtext of decadence.
Lauren opened quietly, with a glam white shirt-black trouser look that might indeed befit a film star of yore, the model’s red-and-black shoes an early glimmer of the Chinese motif ahead. In fact, the mostly black lineup featured a good amount of classic tailoring, which, when worked in high-gloss fabrics, played well to the exotic mood. There were also tony tweeds over beaded dresses and some surprising streety pieces (a leather motorcycle jacket, a silk puffer with multiple zippers), their toughness tempered by ladyfied styling.
The Chinese references came discretely at first, in shoes, jade and coral jewelry, flashes of red. Eventually, the point came into full flower as sleek cheongsams shared the runway with flapper chemises, and demonstrative Chinoiserie-themed embroideries appeared. While the red silk smoking jacket hammered the point with uncharacteristic indiscretion, lavish vests and cocoon coats more gracefully recalled French Deco’s obsession with Orientalism. There was nothing costumey about Lauren’s gorgeous eveningwear, whether black columns with geometric beadwork or a pair of glorious, rich-hued diva gowns, one in burgundy velvet, the other, in fluid jade silk.