The last time Ralph Lauren was on the New York Fashion Week calendar it was September 2019. Even by pre-pandemic standards that show stands out in the memory for its glamour. Lauren turned a ballroom on Wall Street into “Ralph’s Club,” stacked the cabaret tables with celebrities, and hired Janelle Monae to perform a medley of Jazz Age hits.
This time around, he was after a different vibe. Oh, there were celebrities aplenty: Julianne Moore, Diane Keaton, Jennifer Lopez, and Amanda Seyfried, for starters, but the ambiance was artist’s loft by way of Lauren’s Colorado Ranch. We were in an empty warehouse on the edge of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but the only way you knew you were in New York was the line of black cars to ferry guests back to Manhattan waiting outside.
In Lauren’s four years off the schedule, the New York fashion scene has experienced a generational shift; it’s a city of scrappy upstarts and little brands that could. The star power and setting tonight were testament to Lauren’s position at the top of the American fashion business. Calvin and Donna, his famous peers, have long been out of the mix; when young designers name an inspirational figure, Lauren’s name is the one that comes up time and again. Will any of today’s upstarts, scrappy or otherwise, be able to get to his level? Check back in 56 years. Lauren launched his business in 1967.
The collection for spring 2024 was recognizably Ralph, but it also broke new ground. It started with that most American of fabrics, denim, only Lauren treated it in the most elevated of ways; lined with chiffon and tulle and burnt out into devorés, it was then over-embroidered with sequins and beads. It doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to liken these pieces to couture, even if the silhouettes he was working with were straightforward jackets and cargo pants.
From there, the show moved onto a series of black and gold looks and a chance to play with house codes like the RL logo, which was picked out on the torso of a clingy beaded black dress, and the military jacket, which got belted over silky pants and strappy heels. Christy Turlington’s show-closing gold lamé one-shoulder gown was a knockout.
Belt buckles, oversized and bearing the Ralph Lauren logo, got a lot of play throughout, including on the third group of looks that took Lauren’s famous starting point, men’s neckties, morphed them into silk foulards, and wrapped and draped them into easy-wearing halter tops, sarongs, and pajama pants. Also in this section were bias-cut jewel tone silk dresses sliced with deep fringes at the edges and a madras print criss-cross bodice gown that’s one of those unlikely combos that Lauren does so convincingly well.
The show was followed by a dinner in another room with wide wood plank floors and crystal chandeliers. Rustic? A bit. Glamorous? Definitely.