Friday kicked off not only the official start of New York Fashion Week, but also Rag & Bone’s return to the runway after a three-year hiatus. With a show he called Contrasts & Perspectives, Marcus Wainwright aimed to challenge the status quo — the designer has many a time explained his rationale for leaving the traditional runway format, citing “the boredom that comes from just watching them walk down.” So for spring 2020, he offered an innovative mélange of music, choreography and technology — specifically a robotic arm — and fashion.

After years of creating various seasonal films and photography, Wainwright looked to the robotic arm to help change perspectives and experience photography in a different way. Throughout the show, footage from a camera connected to the robotic arm was streamed on vertical LED screens that surrounded his above-runway band, located in the center of his circular runway.

Before the runway format started, there was a performance of intertwined, moving dancers with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, which sang to the beats of Mauro Refosco and Joey Waronker. “Inception”-esque camera movements spun on screen as models emerged and strutted around the band, combining elements and mediums Wainwright has used over the past decade into his new experience.

In terms of fashion, it was business as usual, but that was the point. Within the 43 looks (the brand’s usual was 35, a note pointed out), sharp tailoring, sportswear, utility and a good amount of prep came both masculine and feminine. Primary-colored cricket sweaters brought the brand’s British influences into welcome preppy territory and proved standouts for the collection, alongside sharp women’s tailoring, for instance, three-piece suits offered in monochromatic red or camel with pinstripes. Sartorial workwear was easily layered with more fluid options like a sheer black blouse layered with denim vest and jeans. The collection’s overall strength resided in its versatility for both genders.

“The takeaway is I wanted people to understand that it wasn’t about, ‘Oh, this is the theme of the season,’ it was, “This is Rag & Bone,” Wainwright said backstage post-show. “This is f–king downtown New York cool. It is whatever you want it to be.”

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