Excuse the cliché, but the man is on a roll. The redone Rhinelander is magnificent, his new New York women’s flagship is soon to open, he just showed a phenomenal men’s collection — make that multiple collections — and you can’t get a table at his restaurant in Paris (but we’d love to). And on Thursday morning, Ralph Lauren showed one of his best women’s collections in memory.
Lauren typically begins a collection with a familiar inspiration, one of the handful upon which he’s built his fame, fortune and rock-solid identity. This time up: the West, bringing with it ample fringe, pioneer lace, conch belts and big, sensible hobo bags in leather and Navajo blanket wool. But this was no costume fest, and to consider it such was to absolutely miss the point. Give or take an editorial flourish or two and the cool, sophisticated girl who walked the runway would be every bit as at home in a major urban center, New York or anywhere, as she would on the range. Lauren made the point with his first exit on Anna, her blonde hair swinging in time with the extra-long fringe of her white leather jacket, worn over frothy blouse and shorts. It made for a chic, sexy look. This motif — some form of fringe, whether on jacket, coat or scarf, flying freely over mostly white underpinnings — carried through much of the show, deft pairings of utilitarian leathers and suedes with laces and embroideries providing a fresh take on masculine-feminine counterpoint.
Part of the charm of this collection, and it had plenty, was the way in which Lauren integrated subtle surprises, for example, replacing a rugged outerwear piece with a gently faded blue coat or lace “Sunday blouse,” or inserting a jazzy fringed platinum shimmy dress amongst romantic lace and faded wallpaper print gowns. And maybe it’s the Seventies mood out there, but back then, Svieta’s rumpled crepe de chine jumpsuit (sand jacket and belt) would have looked right at home out West — as at 254 West 54th Street.