“I’m not trying to match cars,” Ralph Lauren said during a Monday preview, reiterating his approach to the fashion part of Tuesday night’s fashion show/mega-event in Bedford.
But how could he resist flashes of vroom-vroom crossover? After all, he chose to show his fall buy-now-wear-now collection at the Bedford garage that’s home to how many millions-worth (or more) of some of the most spectacular cars on Earth?
A preview of Tuesday night’s show revealed that it would feature at least two auto-inspired motifs. Vibrant, high-gloss surfaces replicating the pristine lacquer of the car bodies came by day and by night. The former, a belted coat, was made from leather treated with a process developed for the collection. For evening, sculpted patent leather bustiers contrasted with what might have been the demure fluff of skirts in layers of silk tulle and chiffon. One came in the crisp, flamboyant shade Lauren calls Ferrari red; another paired a slick gunmetal bodice with layers of solid and glen plaid silk.
Perhaps the collection’s most playful turn (at least from the preview): the number “8.” Not just any number 8, but one taken from the side of a 1929/30-ish Bentley race car. Lauren reimagined the T-shirt dress as a racy evening number, its embroidery inspired by the car’s grill but shown in tonal black-on-black to avoid kitsch.
His goal throughout: Chic over sight gag. Men’s wear is a key theme, with glen plaid featuring prominently for women and men. Lauren became intrigued by the prospect of a coed show. “I haven’t done it in 50 years,” he said. Yet he designed the collections separately and said he didn’t worry about the two meshing seamlessly on the runway. One crossover motif: an exploration of a nontraditional way to dress at night. For women, it could mean a motorcycle jacket over tuxedo pants; for men, a sleek tailored jumpsuit.
Lauren stressed that during his design process, the emergence of certain elements – specifically the primary-color injection of sharp red, blue and yellow integrated with black, white and men’s wear patterns – got him thinking about cars, which got him thinking about Bedford. “I never thought of doing it before,” he said. “That was my hobby and this is my work. But my work and my hobby are not so different.”
Two points of commonality: art and motion. In their facilitation of design for utilitarian purposes, Lauren sees clothes and cars as related artistic disciplines. To the latter point, “I love the movement,” he said, noting the visual allure of purposeful motion, whether by chic woman or man, or beautiful car.
It’s not only a spectator sport. Lauren loves to drive his cars, and drive fast. Though he hasn’t approached the 250-mile-an-hour capacity of some of his models, he’s seen 150 mph on the speedometer. Was he afraid? He wouldn’t say, offering only, “I stopped.”
For a full review of Ralph Lauren’s collection see Thursday’s Digital Daily and WWD.com.