A mass sojourn to Jamaica is less easily orchestrated than one to Bedford, N.Y., so for spring, Ralph Lauren brought a little of the tropical paradise to his audience. (Yes, spring. Though he acknowledges certain logistical issues, Lauren is sticking with buy-now-wear-now, for now.) For his return to Skylight Studios, he re-created a corner of the White Lily Cottage at his Jamaica estate, the pristine white-and-rattan installation leading to a sea-blue Plexiglas runway.
“I love the sensibility of blue and white,” Lauren said during a preview. “If I did just blue and white for the rest of my life, it would be amazing.” In fact, he didn’t do just blue and white for the duration of the show, though he started that way. To open the show, Lauren’s models strolled out beachy, barefoot and just a touch retro in lovely dresses cut from a number of soothing prints. Punctuating the sequence: a strapless gown made from raw-edged, flyaway strips of all of the prints, worn over shorts, the look both casual and ethereal. Yet just as one might have felt lulled into a state of gentle respite, Lauren left the lazy, hazy days behind to set sail for full-on, sporty exuberance. A crew of women and men hit the runway in vibrant boating gear done up with beach-scene graphics — bathing beauty, umbrellas, ocean liner — in a range from real-deal sportswear to a buckle-front bustier. Breaking up the pictorials: a snappy mini T-dress in striped micro sequins.
Though adapted from scarves Lauren designed in the Nineties, the graphics were reinterpreted with 21st century know-how, numerous high-tech fabrics designed for durability and high-shine, utilizing bonding (silk cady to PVC, for example), and a thread-free ultrasonic stitching technique. Also of the moment: tweaking the logo. Many pieces featured newfangled, highly visible variations, in bold block lettering as well as a take on the designer’s signature.
There was much to admire in the way Lauren seamlessly integrated so diverse an assortment of good-looking clothes — day to night, evening to beach to boat, women and men. But the collection suffered from overstatement. Placing a huge ocean-liner graphic front-and-center on a jacket makes for demonstrative fun; doing it repeatedly lessens the impact.
Then again, in a bandwagon world, Lauren has never hopped aboard. (Why would he, with all those cars?) In fact, he may be fashion’s most aggressive iconoclast. To paraphrase his oft-stated mantra, he does what he does. In that sense, he’s paved the way for Alessandro Michele, who has stated that he wants to develop his Gucci as a continuous expression of his vision, rather than a trend factory. That’s what Lauren has done for 50 years and counting. It’s made him an icon — one who doesn’t have to overstate his case. Unless, of course, he feels like it.