One of the great joys and challenges of fashion for designer and consumer alike is stepping out of one’s comfort zone, daring to be a little different without looking like you’ve lost your mind, sartorially speaking. We all know Ralph Lauren’s beloved, immediately recognizable reference points; Spain, Mexico and other epicenters of sensual Latin style are not on the tour.

Until now. On Thursday morning Lauren went Latin con gusto, indicating that his risk-taking tendencies are not limited to a yellow Ferrari and selling burgers on Boulevard Saint-Germain. Though not perfect — the show ran too long and at times, too literal — the clothes flaunted an unexpected visual bravado, without betraying a bit of the designer’s ethos, and many of them looked great.

From look one, a frilled turquoise suede shirt over black pants, the message was clear — exuberance, color and lots of accessories. The craftsmanship was exquisite, surface textures enriched via crochets (a bright red, full-skirted tank dress) and embroideries (a gloriously jeweled top worn with a black tulle skirt). Key to the best looks: a casual attitude, no matter how fine the materials or abundant the extras (berets, jewelry, bandanas, an array of bags). A deft irreverence for the material also mattered, when, for example, a serape wasn’t a serape but an off-the-shoulder top. The collection floundered when a costumey toreador troupe muscled in on such measured application. That was not a problem for evening, when Lauren sent out a pair of curvaceous, exquisitely embroidered black gowns that were sensual stunners.

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