NEW YORK, United States — Last season, Rag & Bone founder and chief executive Marcus Wainwright said goodbye to fashion shows — at least for the time being — and instead dressed 70-something friends and muses for a series of portraits. The results were hung in a gallery, where the subjects showed up wearing the looks they modeled in the photographs to celebrate the project, as well as the company's 10 years in business.
For Spring 2018, he evolved the idea a bit, this time asking more than 30 friends and muses — and one super-customer, who has become a sort-of unofficial ambassador for the brand — to pose for self portraits in his punched-with-neon collection, all styled by the inimitable Melanie Ward. In return for their services, Rag & Bone made a donation for each to one of 20-odd charities, including the Houston Humane Society and the Open Door Foundation.
The project cost far less than staging a runway show and the hope is surely that the images will travel just as far on social media. But these portrait series have also taught Wainwright and his design team a serious lesson around what paying customers want to wear and how they want to wear it, which is arguably more valuable than glowing Instagram comments.
Sure, Wainwright could wax on about how this year's trip to Glastonbury got him on floral dresses with sporty zipper details, or the reason he scribbled “Rag & Bone” in highlighter green up the side of a pair of black jeans. However, what’s nice about these clothes is not the elaborate backstory, it's how unfussy and loose those boiler suits and racing-stripe trousers look on a real person. Rag & Bone is best when Wainwright breaks away from the urge to offer generic “key items of the season" and instead doubles down on the label’s most reliable tropes: English country, motocross, military. Anything old, done well, can be made new again.