BEDFORD, United States — Ralph Lauren’s runway show on Tuesday night in Bedford, New York, was an open-armed gesture. Come in, this is who I really am, it said.
Lauren's antique-car garage — which resembled the showroom of an upscale auto show — served as the stage, plush leather seats cushioning 300 guests as they watched his All-American models zoom down the runway, the sound of revving motor engines blasting over the loudspeaker. After the show, the audience was escorted downstairs, where they listened to something like Muzak and ate Polo Bar burgers and shoestring fries under very bright lights that made it easy to catch the details on another set of glossy cars, including a 1938 Alfa Romeo Mille Miglia in cherry red and a 1996 McLaren F1 Le Mans from 1996 in canary yellow. Good looking, to be sure, even for those who cannot begin to comprehend their specialness.
There was also a ready-to-wear collection. Was it special, too? Lauren’s fashion tends to be quite literal in inspiration and Fall 2017 was no different. To start, there were country-house tweeds and houndstooth-check ascots mixed together in three-piece suits for both women and men (the first time he has ever shown both on one runway). A playful boiler-suit tux followed, as did more eveningwear designed to match the glamour — and topcoats — of the vehicles, like a yellow-tulle ball gown paired with a black-leather jacket, or a racing-stripe sequined column in black-and-primary blue. Some pieces even mimicked automobiles in material, too, like a patent leather bustier, or a deeply scooped mini dress in napa leather.
There was great effort put into to the execution of the evening, from the whisking of editors upstate in private cars to the “Ralph’s Garage” branded caramel corn handed out as parting favours. Few others could have pulled something like this off. However, one hoped that the runway would convey more of Lauren, the one who welcomed us here. The clothes were well cut and nicely executed, but do they possess the tension, the texture, to rev up desire? Once again, Lauren’s personal wardrobe — an olive-coloured flight suit, brown leather belt slung low — may have been the most compelling thing to walk down the runway.
For the few who were invited to attend on Tuesday, Ralph Lauren offered a night to remember. For the label to move forward, however, Lauren must make clothes that are memorable, too, and in this case they could have used a little greasing.