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Fashion shows, especially fashion shows put on by multibillion-dollar brands, pretty much always surprise and delight in their production values (sometimes so much so that the garments on display are outshone).
Ralph Lauren’s Fall 2019 presentation, held Saturday night in New York City’s Financial District, surprised, delighted and dazzled on all fronts, but most importantly, with its clothes. The clothes somehow even outdid the performer Janelle Monáe, who sang loudly and gyrated with athletic brio to end the gathering. She tossed at least three drinks in the air! People loved that.
First, though, the basics: the label converted an empty bank at 48 Wall Street with nearly a month’s worth of construction, transforming it into an Art Deco-inspired watering hole dubbed “Ralph’s Club.”
The exit signs had been custom-made in an appropriately retro font. Phalanxes of Ralph Lauren-suited waiters served tiny martinis with metal picks. One rarely sees, let alone expects, a metal pick in a martini nowadays. Diamond Deco motifs graced the table seating cards. Perhaps the pastiche was a little overt and therefore cheesy overall — but individually, those details were thoroughly considered and fun.
When guests were settled into their banquettes, the runway show commenced, big band playing. Model Gigi Hadid opened the night in a sparkling coat, and was soon followed by tuxedo-anchored, capital E eveningwear, sometimes with “R” monograms or teddy bears holding, yes, tiny martinis.
But while the tuxedo was a foundation of the collection — interpreted every which way, from a roomy shawl-collared jacket over drainpipe pants to a halter-top pantsuit — dresses also took a star turn: many of which were arguably daring by Ralph Lauren standards.
The flagship example was a gown worn by Bella Hadid. It was beaded in sanguine red — Jessica Rabbit-red — with a neckline cut almost to the navel. At that point, the dress’s fabric twisted and gathered, fanning out in vermilion beams. It was strikingly good. Mini dresses in reflective black featured in too, as did more Lauren-esque simple yet elegant slips. But, throughout, there was more skin on view than usual: the designer and his team didn’t seem to hesitate on upping the “sexy” factor.
These pieces made for a great show, but how will they play when it comes to real life in 2019, no longer in the theatre of a long lost era? It could be risky. But, Lauren is one of the sole remaining “see-now, buy-now” holdouts; these clothes will be for sale imminently, rather than six months from now. They’ll know soon enough.
Monae’s finale was spectacular. She read the room, and knew how to whip it up. Henry Golding started dancing. Monae’s black-and-red iridescent skirt never stopped moving, crackling, even as she thanked Lauren for inviting her, calling him “the greatest American designer we have.” Hell, she even got him to sing for a moment, too.
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