Ralph Lauren’s is one of fashion’s most distinctive identities. Yet his is a world in constant motion. The most recent example: the rapid development of the Polo collection, particularly the women’s line launched only last season.
Lauren typically shows his various men’s collections in an impressive presentation at his Madison Avenue offices. This time, he integrated Women’s Polo into the mix in a display that radiated commercial power and fashion power in equal measure. Sixty-one models, women and men, were arranged in a series of vignettes that flaunted the Polo brand’s broad range within its finely honed identity. “I get stereotyped,” Lauren said. “It’s not just preppy.”
No indeed, though one could certainly extract that mood — and many others too numerous to count. Polo is a land where a latter-day James Dean-type (aviator shades, distressed leather jacket, plaid shirt, wrecked jeans) might bump into an aforementioned, camel-coated preppy, both vying for the affections of a modern minimalist girl in a green sweater and brown precision A-line mini. Yet she’s something of an outlier; more often, Polo girls favor racy looks with a touch of beatnik, Nordic whites or a magpie mix, particularly fluid underpinnings worn with tweeds and other rugged fare.
Then there’s Polo Sport, which Lauren reintroduced for men, this time in a colorful assortment with performance attributes. It’s Lauren’s particular brilliance that he can offer such diversity within one brand and shape it into a singularly cohesive collection packed with charm and youthful chic.
Although Polo was in the spotlight, Lauren also offered up the latest in his upscale Purple Label collection. “This is the big thrust of our company,” he said. He started with “a statement about formalwear” showing a jacquard, shawl-lapel tuxedo, a double-breasted velvet smoking jacket in eggplant, and a sleek bodysuit. Lauren said the jumpsuit was inspired by Winston Churchill, who apparently had an experimental fashion moment in his younger years. There was also a black-and-camel equestrian group that included cashmere drawstring sweatpants and a double-faced soft leather jacket. “This is our ultimate quality,” Lauren said. “It’s mixed in a very sophisticated way. This is how the modern man likes to dress.”