Sleek and tailored fashion could only come in second behind a bevy of magnificent and historic automobiles. The colors alone were enough to wet the appetite: a juicy orange, a vibrant tomato red, sunshine yellow, and a silver shine. And those were just the cars.
Who could have imagined a visit to the lush country estate an hour from Manhattan where Ralph Lauren keeps his exceptional collection of historic racing cars? The myriad fine pieces included a fiery red Ferrari, a silver McLaren and a historic black Mercedes Benz with lights like an owl’s eyes, and a curling chassis.
These mechanical creatures were stored inside a purpose-built luxury garage on two levels, which was adapted for the event to an upper area for the show and, down the driving slope, a main floor with dining tables rich with red roses.
Everyone was so enthralled by the cars that it was no wonder Diane Keaton could hardly keep her hat on in the excitement, while Jessica Chastain had to compete with a streamlined white car for the paparazzi’s attention.
But wasn’t this supposed to be a Ralph Lauren show as part of New York Fashion Week? Except the designer had chosen to follow the experimental see-now, buy-now sales model for shoppers’ instant gratification.
The show opened with expert tailoring in a grey you might find on the chassis of a car or its low-slung leather seats.
Given Ralph Lauren’s passion for these streamlined creatures that looked ready to roll, it was not surprising that the clothes themselves were in the sharp style that has been little seen during this New York season.
Womenswear began as three-piece outfits in a subtle mix of tailoring fabrics, perhaps with Prince of Wales checks facing off bolder graphic patterns. A top might be cut off a bodice to create a strapless waistcoat. Yet, from padlock and chain accessories to metallic bracelets, the vibe was hyper male.
The men themselves were also dressed in traditional plays on check, especially a dogtooth checkered coat and smaller versions of the square graft patterns on suit, shirt and tie.
Diane Keaton, sitting beside Ricky Lauren and the extended family, pointed to the more sporty tailoring for women – bomber jackets with toning check pants and scarf, or a sturdier country jacket with a rougher texture – a neat complement to the line-up of glimmering cars beside the runway.
The variations on checks overwhelmed this Fall 2018 collection. The patterns continued for evening as a tailored, strapless dress and dogtooth printing on silken surfaces. A short slip of a dress, with low level sparkles like asphalt in moonlight, worn under a big puffer jacket, looked more convincing than the casual, layered looks of the day.
The silvered theme was fine when it appeared to come naturally as a male bomber jacket or a female neck piece. Yellow and red, a match for the cars, seemed more forced, although there was drama in a giant yellow tulle skirt worn with a black leather jacket and in gowns in primary colours such as scarlet and bright blue.
The evening looks led up to the finale, as the audience rose to its feet and Ralph Lauren made his procession past the audience and his beloved cars.
Was it all more spectacle than fashion invention? There was a strong theme and an extraordinary opportunity to see the car collection. And both clothes and the glamorous four wheeled accessories seemed unique to Ralph Lauren and his classic and classy image.