NEW YORK — It’s going to be a hot spring, and you don’t need the Farmer’s Almanac to tell. You only have to look to the New York runways, which are sizzling up the season with abandon. Clothes for the office? Or for that matter, the winds of March? Not necessarily the point, as designers would rather let women create their own heat. Cases in point: Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors. On Wednesday, they showed two very different sides of sexy, with fabulous results.
It seems that every other week there’s a big Ralph Lauren story: the opening of his SoHo store; the Club Monaco acquisition; this fall’s launch of Romance for Men; his buyback of his European licensees for jeans and stores — a major step in positioning the company for growth. What a perfect moment for a near-perfect collection, and for spring, that’s exactly what Lauren showed, sexy, fresh and brilliantly focused.
In a season of casual chic, it’s tough to best Ralph; he just about wrote the book. His vision of fashion, and life, has always celebrated the casual life, translated into an urbane context with deft skill. For spring, Ralph played to the mood splendidly, beginning with a new approach to the western ways he loves. Yet this was no costume hootenanny, but a subtle, realistic take that looked fabulous, featuring lively ginghams for everything from little minis to a new version of the white shirt-and-evening-skirt duet that Calista Flockhart looked so great in at the Emmys. Lauren also reprised his love of a nautical palette for sultry little tube tops over fluid skirts or low-slung pants. He showed perforated leathers and camisoles, pretty Tough Chic biker looks, and he went beachy with great swimsuits and bikini tops over low-slung pants.
Unlike some other designers, Lauren didn’t neglect the suit. Instead, he made a convincing case for its continuing validity, with body-hugging jackets over slightly naughty flounced-hem skirts. His evening was equally offhand, with eyelet linens and sexy beaded gowns. And throughout, Ralph offered an editorial folly quotient of nil. These are clothes for women to wear and look great in and, in the end, isn’t that the point?
Certainly Michael Kors thinks so. Check your angst at the door, millennial or otherwise. “It’s a happiness issue,” Kors said before his show. “There are no belt packs, no protective anything. I mean, as far as this girl’s concerned, what’s so bad?”
Not a thing. She’s a diva on holiday, with a capital D — for divine. “They’re Palm Bitchy,” Kors proclaimed of his lineup of sultry sun-kissed beauties, decked in lots of glorious hair, and often little else. How better to show off a tan than in lemon-lime prints with a Lilly Pulitzer punch and a Bardot sizzle? Those little jersey nothings came in micro-minis, shifts and bikinis, and for the woman who may have over-worked the oyster bar, something a bit roomier — the “La Liz” caftan.
There were scores of airy knits along with shorts and jeans kept — you guessed it — short and tight. About the only pieces with any weight at all were the wonderfully indulgent Aran knits, luxed up in tony cashmere.
Of course, divas can bore easily, and when they tire of their prints, they can just go nude. No, not in their own glorious skins, but in any number of Michael’s seemingly dyed-to-match alternatives, from windbreakers and shorts to the raciest leather-lace pants. And even if they don’t have a body like Gisele’s — and who does? — they can always strut like they do.