NEW YORK, United States — For the spring iteration of his buy-now runway show, Ralph Lauren lined the walls of his Madison Avenue flagship with an estimated 100,000 orchids. They smelled great. The arrangements, which were sprinkled with automated fluttering butterflies, will stay in place through February 20 for shoppers who stop in to peruse the new collection.
Last autumn, and seemingly last minute, Lauren and his executive team, then led by H&M and Old Navy alum Stefan Larsson, decided to shift to the in-season model. That meant showing Autumn/Winter 2016 clothes just as the weather was about to turn. In early February, when Larsson announced that he would be leaving the company after finding that he and Lauren “have different views on how to evolve” the business, there was a question as to whether the brand would continue to embrace the “see-now, buy-now” strategy.
For the time being, the answer is that they will. Lauren’s Spring 2017 lineup featured washed linen double-breasted blazers, damask-silk flight suits and basket-weave cardigans, accented with exaggerated worn-gold necklaces. Floating anorak-style silk gowns and crocheted-knit and silk-caftan dresses were the sort of pieces that a woman might wear on a holiday at the Round Hill Resort in Jamaica, where Lauren himself designed the oceanfront rooms. Elegance and ease is his great pursuit, and many of these looks, from the jewel-town goddess gowns to the printed-silk robe dress, communicated that nicely.
But as it was last season, the production, as well as some of the key pieces — the distressed denim, the one-shoulder ruffled numbers — were too set in the old way to inspire.
One easy change would be to show women’s and men’s collections together in order to create a fuller sense of the Ralph Lauren “lifestyle,” a concept which Lauren himself pioneered. Larsson may not have been the right partner for the 77-year-old Lauren to usher his namesake brand into the next era, but it’s clear that it does need a creative dusting off that needs to be executed by someone with fresh eyes. The designer, whose brand has inspired thousands of others, has provided decades of the highest-quality material. Now it just needs to be refashioned.